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Hutton clears Blair, faults BBC

Blair
Blair said he accepted the report's findings "in full."

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Lord Hutton clears Blair's office of "sexing up" dossier on Iraq's weapons.
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• Full text: Lord Hutton's report external link
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HUTTON'S KEY FINDINGS

Kelly took his own life

No one should have known Kelly would take his life

BBC report that government dossier was "sexed-up" was unfounded

BBC's editorial system was defective in allowing report to air without approval

Government did not behave dishonorably concerning Kelly's identity

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A senior judge says UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's government did not act in a "dishonorable, underhand or duplicitous" way in its handling of an expert on Iraqi weapons who committed suicide.

Lord Hutton has been looking into the events surrounding the death of David Kelly, who was found dead in July -- days after he was exposed as the source for a BBC report that Blair's office "sexed up" a dossier making the case for war.

In a statement before his report was released, Hutton said BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's story that the dossier had been "sexed up" was "unfounded."

He said BBC management had failed to properly check Gilligan's story and did not properly investigate the government's complaints about it.

The publicly funded broadcaster's director-general Greg Dyke later apologized for the report and a spokesperson said Chairman Gavyn Davies had resigned.

"The BBC does accept that certain key allegations reported by Andrew Gilligan on the Today program on May 29 last year were wrong and we apologize for them," Dyke said in a statement.

"We would point out again that at no stage in the last eight months have we accused the prime minister of lying and have said this publicly on several occasions," he added.

Gilligan's report said a government statement that Iraqi forces could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was based on false intelligence that officials knew was unreliable.

Blair's government denied the report and demanded a retraction, sparking a bitter dispute.

Critics accused the government and Blair of thrusting Kelly into the media spotlight, thereby contributing to his death.

Hutton said the government had acted "reasonably" in confirming Kelly's identity after he told his bosses he was probably the source of Gilligan's story. Kelly, however, denied telling Gilligan that the 45-minute claim was false.

The judge said the government would have been guilty of a cover-up if it had tried to conceal Kelly's identity.

However, he said Ministry of Defence officials could have given Kelly more help when they confirmed his identity to the media. But Hutton said Kelly was an intensely private man and "not easy to help."

The judge agreed with an expert witness at the inquiry that a loss of self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness and despair might have contributed to Kelly's suicide.

He said he was satisfied that nobody involved in the matter could have foreseen that Kelly would take his own life after he was named as the source of the BBC report.

"Whatever pressures and strains Dr. Kelly was subjected to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no one realized or should have realized that those pressures and strains might lead him to take his own life," Hutton said.

He added that Kelly acted improperly by privately meeting with Gilligan and had breached rules about government employees' contacts with the media.

Kelly
Hutton said the weapons expert was "not easy to help."

A statement on behalf of Kelly's family said: "If their personal tragedy is not to be compounded, they urge that, regardless of any criticism or exoneration in the report, the government takes action to ensure that the ordeal suffered by David Kelly will never be repeated.

"No other person should have to suffer the pressure that he experienced."

Hutton said he "deplored" the leaking of the findings of his report in The Sun newspaper on Wednesday. He said he was giving urgent thought to what investigative and legal moves could be taken against the paper and its source.

Speaking in the Commons after the release of the report, Blair said he accepted its findings "in full."

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said Hutton's report was "a considerable vindication of Tony Blair's position." (Analysis)

Former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell later said the report meant a "stain on the integrity of the prime minister and the government has been removed."

"What the report shows very clearly is the prime minister told the truth, the government told the truth, I told the truth."

The report was published a day after Blair cleared a key education reform hurdle in Parliament by five votes. (Full story)


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