LONDON – Some parts of British intelligence dossiers (search) on Iraqi weapons were "plainly inaccurate," Britain's former foreign secretary said Friday, contesting the government's continuing insistence that the documents were correct.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's (search) government has been on the defensive over two dossiers, published in September and early this year. The government has acknowledged that the second document included material from a student thesis lifted from the Internet.
The two documents were a key part of the government's argument for military action in Iraq. The controversy over them could fuel new calls for Blair to get British troops out of the region, especially after six British military policemen were killed Tuesday in southern Iraq.
"For me, the real issue is that we were told things as a justification for war which have plainly turned out to be wrong since the war was over," former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook (search) said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Among the things Cook said were wrong in the September dossier was that Iraq could fire chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of Saddam Hussein giving an order to do so.
Cook said other errors include claims "that Saddam had rebuilt production facilities for chemical weapons, which we can't find, although they were supposed to be big factories. That he had a nuclear weapons program, which we can't find, although that would have involved a big industrial site. That he was buying uranium from Africa," which was later determined to be based on forged documents that came to the CIA through Italian and British agencies.
Two Parliamentary committees are investigating the government's case that Iraqi weapons programs justified military intervention.
Blair defended the dossier before the House of Commons on Wednesday.
"It is important, amid all this coverage, to realize that the contents of that dossier -- and, indeed, of the first dossier which I presented to the House -- are accurate," Blair said.
Blair's communications director, Alastair Campbell, testified Wednesday before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, rejecting as "complete and utter nonsense" accusations that he redrafted intelligence reports on Saddam's arsenal to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraqi weapons.
Cook, who was Blair's foreign secretary from 1997 to 2001, resigned from his Cabinet post as leader of the House of Commons to protest the prime minister's Iraq policy before Britain joined the U.S.-led invasion.