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Revealed: The First Draft of Dossier That Took Britain to War

Nigel Morris

Fresh evidence that the Iraq weapons dossier was "sexed up" emerged as the Government finally published the secret first draft of the document.As expected, the earliest version of the document did not include the now notorious claim that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

The first draft made a series of lurid claims about the extent and danger of the Iraqi president's weapons arsenal. But those were expressed in even stronger terms by September 2002, when the official dossier on which Tony Blair based the case for war was published.

Ministers had fought a three-year battle to stop the confidential initial draft from being released, but last month lost an appeal against a ruling that it should be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The paper, whose existence first emerged during the Hutton inquiry in 2003, was written by John Williams, the former director of communications at the Foreign Office. He warned that Saddam had come to power by "torture, rape and execution" and concluded that Iraq presented a "uniquely dangerous threat to the world".

The Williams paper made a series of detailed claims about the Iraqi president's stockpile of chemical and biological weapons.

But there was no reference to the 45-minute claim, although it warned that Iraq was "developing as a priority longer-range missile systems capable of targeting Nato (Greece and Turkey?)".

The final dossier, attributed to John Scarlett, who was then the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, made the bold assertion: "Iraq's military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons, with command, control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so."

In addition, language used in Mr Williams' assessment of the threat from Saddam was toughened up several times by the publication of the final dossier.

Mr Williams also said that Iraq would "find it difficult to produce fissile material [for nuclear weapons] while sanctions remain in place".

The Hutton inquiry into the death of the weapons expert Dr David Kelly heard claims that evidence against Saddam was "sexed up" by Downing Street by the time it was presented to the public.

Last night, Mr Williams told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "The 45-minutes claim was absolutely nothing whatever to do with me. It was news to me."

According to the Government, the Williams dossier was quickly set aside after it was decided that Sir John should be made responsible for the document.

Last night, the opposition parties said the language used by Mr Williams, the former political editor of the Daily Mirror, showed that ministers initially turned to senior press officers to make eye-catching claims about the evils of Saddam's regime. They renewed calls for a public inquiry into the build-up to the conflict.

William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "This is yet further evidence that spin doctors, not intelligence analysts, were leading from the first in deciding what the British people were told about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "The Government cannot continue to deny the major role that spin doctors played in creating this dossier."

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said the Government had not released the draft earlier because of concerns that officials could be deterred from offering frank advice if they feared it could be made public.

How language was 'sexed up'

Williams draft: "[Iraq] is developing as a priority longer-range missile weapons capable of threatening Nato (Greece and Turkey?)."

Final version: "Iraq's military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons... The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so."

Williams draft: "[Iraq] is testing the solid-propellant missile Ababil-100, and is making efforts to extend its range."

Final version: "[Iraq has] started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100, and is making efforts to extend its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the UN."

Williams draft: "[Iraq] has retained a dozen al-Hussein missiles, capable of carrying a chemical or biological warhead..."

Final version: "[Iraq has] illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads."

Williams draft: "[Iraq] is close to deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile..."

Final version: "[Iraq has] started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile."

© 2008 The Independent

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