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Blair accepts BBC apology

Dyke
Dyke said he hoped his resignation would draw a line under the affair.

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Lord Hutton clears Blair's office of "sexing up" dossier on Iraq's weapons.
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HUTTON'S KEY FINDINGS

Kelly took his own life

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The BBC has apologized to the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair following a damning report into the suicide of a British expert on Iraqi weapons.

The apology came after the top two officials at the BBC stepped down in the wake of the inquiry by senior judge, Lord Hutton.

Blair accepted the apology, telling reporters outside 10 Downing Street: "This for me was a simple matter: An accusation that was a very serious one that was made that was a false accusation that Lord Hutton has found. And it has now been withdrawn that's all I wanted."

The resignation of director-general Greg Dyke on Thursday came after a crisis meeting of the BBC's board of governors. Board Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned late Wednesday, hours after Lord Hutton released the report.

David Kelly's body was found in July, days after he had been exposed as the source for a BBC report that Blair's office "sexed up" a dossier making the case for war.

Hutton said the BBC's story was "unfounded," and he criticized BBC management for failing to properly check the story before it aired and for not properly investigating the government's complaints about it. (Full story)

Meanwhile, many British newspapers lashed out at Hutton, accusing the judge of a "whitewash." (Full story).

In Thursday's apology, acting BBC Chairman Lord Richard Ryder acknowledged mistakes in the network's reporting and singled out "the individuals whose reputations were affected by them."

Blair welcomed the action, saying he had "no doubt the BBC will continue as it should do, to probe and question the government in every proper way."

Dyke, in his resignation statement Thursday, said his position as director-general "has inevitably been compromised by the criticisms of BBC management in the Hutton Report" for failing to properly check defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan's story or properly investigate the government's complaints about it.

He emphasized the importance of BBC making a "new start" to regain the trust the venerable network has established with the public over the years.

"I think my going is actually quite important in preserving the BBC's independence," said Dyke.

"I think the BBC is an incredibly important organization in this country, and this has been an unpleasant, and difficult time for it. I hope with me going that will be the end of it. It can get on doing what its job is, and that is to serve the public."

The network's board of governors appointed Mark Byford, a 24-year veteran of BBC, as acting director-general.

The BBC's original story said a government statement that Iraq 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.

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


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