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Blair-BBC row deepens in Britain

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In the US, President Bush has come under fire for relying on faulty intelligence - also British - to bolster his case for disarming Iraq. The White House said earlier this week that claims by Mr. Bush in his January State of the Union speech that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Africa were based on forged documents. Congressional Democrats want a full investigation into the administration's case for war.

Because of this admission, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, another key coalition ally, has come under verbal attacks from opposition lawmakers who were opposed to Australia's involvement in the war.

The British government has responded furiously to the BBC's claim, accusing it of basing its report on a single unnamed, uncorroborated source. Mr. Campbell, a pugnacious gatekeeper with a withering contempt for some journalists, has been grilled by members of Parliament and TV interviewers, thundering his innocence and repeatedly demanding retractions and apologies.

A parliamentary inquiry into the affair reported back earlier this week with an inconclusive verdict, saying the "jury is still out" on whether the government exaggerated Iraq's WMD threat.

That brought an impassioned defense from Blair himself on Tuesday, who told a committee of Parliament members: "I'm afraid that in that regard, for me the jury is not out. It's not out at all. On that central allegation - that myself or anyone else inserted information into last September's dossier against the wishes of the intelligence agencies - that allegation was totally false," Blair said. "And I don't know anyone who now believes that allegation to be true."

But the BBC has stuck to its guns, accusing the government of bullying tactics. The "Beeb" defends its correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, and his reporting of the story. With no chance of a retraction, each is looking at a damaging, drawn-out stalemate.

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