LONDON – British Prime Minister Tony Blair, under fire from lawmakers over the failure to find Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, said Wednesday that the government will cooperate with a parliamentary probe into the intelligence on Iraqi arms that he used to justify war.
Blair said the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (search) had contacted the government early last month to conduct an inquiry into intelligence on Iraq.
"I welcome this," Blair told the House of Commons. "I can assure the House the government will cooperate fully with it."
Blair described as "completely and utterly untrue" a media report that his office had redrafted an intelligence service report to emphasize a claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
The probe by the Intelligence and Security Committee is separate from the investigation announced late Tuesday by the influential House of Commons Foreign Relations Committee (search).
The Intelligence and Security Committee reports to Blair and its members are appointed by the prime minister. The Foreign Affairs Committee, however, holds most of its hearings in public and reports to Parliament.
Noting that, opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith (search) urged Blair to authorize an independent inquiry.
"The whole credibility of his government rests on clearing up these charges. And I simply say to the prime minister, these allegations are not going to go away," Duncan Smith said.
With no weapons of mass destruction yet found in Iraq, the government is under increasing pressure to explain claims in an intelligence dossier that supported Blair's main argument for military action — that the weapons presented a real threat.
The latest controversy about the weapons was fueled by a report on BBC Radio quoting an unidentified "senior British official" as saying that intelligence officers were unhappy about the inclusion in the dossier of evidence they regarded as unreliable — such as a claim that weapons could be activated within 45 minutes.
A senior member of Blair's Cabinet on Wednesday said "rogue" elements within the intelligence services were responsible for the BBC report.
"When I look at who is supposed to be the source of this according to the BBC's own reporter, it is one individual, unnamed, anonymous, uncorroborated official who is in some way connected with the intelligence service," the Leader of the House of Commons, John Reid, told BBC TV.
"It amazes me that serious organizations like the BBC should take the word of such obviously rogue isolated individuals."
"The allegation ... is that we are corrupt, we are dishonest, that we and the intelligence chiefs we work for allowed and knowingly put into the public domain ... misinformation in order to dupe colleagues in parliament and the public. That is the most serious of charges," he added.
In an interview with The Times of London published Wednesday, Reid said the BBC report was based on "uncorroborated briefings by a potentially rogue element — or indeed rogue elements — in the intelligence services."
"This is getting ridiculous. We have not found WMD [weapons of mass destruction] yet, but we have not found Saddam Hussein — and everyone knows he existed," Reid added.
Blair has denied his office doctored the intelligence dossier to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq's weapons, which he says existed and will eventually be found by coalition forces.
Some legislators, including the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat Party (search), have called for a public inquiry, but Blair's office has resisted.