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http://politics.guardian.co.uk/kelly/story/0,13747,1021534,00.html No 10 knew: Iraq no threat Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicholas Watt Tuesday August 19, 2003 The Guardian One of the prime minister's closest advisers issued a private warning that it would be wrong for Tony Blair to claim Iraq's banned weapons programme showed Saddam Hussein presented an "imminent threat" to the west or even his Arab neighbours. In a message that goes to the heart of the government's case for war, the Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, raised serious doubts about the nature of September's Downing Street dossier on Iraq's banned weapons. "We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat," Mr Powell wrote on September 17, a week before the document was finally published. His remarks urging caution contrasted with the chilling language used by Mr Blair in a passionate speech in the Commons as he launched the dossier a week later. He described Iraq's prog-ramme for weapons of mass destruction as "active, detailed, and growing ... It is up and running now". Mr Powell's private concerns came in the form of an email which was copied to Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications, and Sir David Manning, Mr Blair's foreign policy adviser. The fact the three closest men to the prime minister knew of this information strongly suggests Mr Blair would have been aware. Downing Street also faced severe embarrassment yesterday when the Hutton inquiry was told the prime minister's official spokesman in an email had described the government's battles with the BBC as a "game of chicken". The email revealed how senior Downing Street officials - and on occasion Mr Blair himself - became intimately involved in the events which led to the death of the government scientist David Kelly. Within minutes of taking the stand, Mr Powell was asked about his email to John Scarlett, chairman of the joint intelligence committee, in which he said he believed the arms dossier "does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam" and added: "In other words, it shows he has the means but it does not demonstrate he has the motive to attack his neighbours, let alone the west." The Hutton inquiry heard last week that the final version contained claims that a senior defence intelligence official agreed were "noticeably" hardened up. They included a claim in the dossier's foreword, signed by Mr Blair, that Iraqi chemical and biological weapons would be "ready" within 45 minutes of an order to deploy them. Mr Blair also described Iraq as posing a "serious and current threat". Documents disclosed by the inquiry yesterday reveal the close interest Mr Blair and Mr Campbell showed in the dossier as it was being prepared. On September 5, Mr Campbell's office emailed Mr Powell: "Re dossier, substantial rewrite. Structure as per TB [Tony Blair] discussion." The email refers to the need for "real intelligence material". Mr Powell responds by asking, "will 'TB' have something he can read" on the plane on his way to meet George Bush. The Hutton inquiry yesterday revealed that top officials in the Ministry of Defence and Downing Street - and Mr Blair himself - made it clear they wanted Dr Kelly to give evidence both in private to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) and in public to the Commons foreign affairs committee (FAC) despite the intense personal pressure he was under. The government was worried about what Dr Kelly would tell MPs. In an email to one of the prime minister's private secretaries, Mr Powell wrote: "We tried the prime minister out on Kelly before FAC and ISC next Tuesday. He thought he probably had to do both but need to be properly prepared beforehand." Three days earlier, on July 7, Mr Blair asked his closest advisers what they "knew of Dr Kelly's views on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, what would he say if he appeared before the ISC or the FAC". Sir Kevin Tebbit, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, warned that Dr Kelly might say some "uncomfortable" things. The inquiry heard that the Downing Street press office was kept closely in touch with the MoD's strategy which led to Dr Kelly's name being made public. On the day he was named, July 10, one of those officials, Tom Kelly, wrote his devastating email to Mr Powell. "This is now a game of chicken with the Beeb - the only way they will shift is they see the screw tightening," he wrote. He was referring to plans to make the scientist appear before the committees in the hope of forcing the BBC to confirm that Dr Kelly was its source. Sir David, now the British ambassador to the United States, acknowledged that feelings had been running high in Downing Street. "There were certainly moments of personal anger. I think it was the case that it was seen as a pretty direct attack on the integrity of the prime minister and officials at No 10," he told the inquiry. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk