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Hutton Report Clears Blair

While clearing British Premier Tony Blair of allegations of wrong-doing, an investigation into the death of scientist David Kelly criticized the BBC's role in the affair.

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He's got a reason to smile again.

British opposition leader Michael Howard on Wednesday called for a police investigation into a leak of the report, details of the which were published in the tabloid the Sun. The document clears the prime minister of any "dishonorable conduct" leading up to the suicide of Kelly, an expert on biological weapons in the Ministry of Defense.

The newspaper claimed to have seen extracts of the report which judge Lord Brian Hutton was due to make public at noon on Wednesday before Blair addresses the House of Commons.

"Disgraceful leak"

Conservative Party leader Howard, who was given the opportunity to study the report before portions of it appeared in the press, described the leak as "quite disgraceful" and called for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to conduct a full inquiry into the circumstances.

Advanced copies of Hutton’s report were given to the government, the BBC and Kelly's family after each vowed not to reveal its contents.

A government spokesman, quoted by the BBC, denied "categorically that anyone who was authorized" to see the report prior to its release leaked it to the press.

The BBC also denied leaking the details, and in its defense pointed out that if the information in the Sun was accurate the broadcaster and its defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan would be "castigated" by Hutton.

Inquiry into Kelly’s death

Kelly committed suicide last July after being named as the defense ministry source for BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan’s story that the government "sexed up" its 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which later served as proof for supporting the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Lord Hutton had been given the task of conducting an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the BBC story and Kelly’s death. According to unconfirmed reports in the Sun, Lord Hutton cites a psychiatrist’s evidence that the weapons expert committed suicide because he had been "publicly disgraced." His name had been leaked to the press by the government after Gilligan’s story broke.

The Sun claims the report concludes there was no "dishonorable, underhand or duplicitous strategy" by Downing Street or the government to reveal Kelly as the BBC’s source. Lord Hutton did, however, reportedly reprimand the Ministry of Defense for not telling Kelly ahead of time that he would be mentioned.

Since Kelly's death, Blair has been sharply criticized by the media and opposition Tories for his alleged role in the affair. Members in his own party have also criticized him for not being forthright in the disclosure of the facts quoted in the weapons dossier. In the last year, Blair has had to endure a series of sharp blows to his position. The latest was on Tuesday when the government just barely won a House of Commons vote 316 to 311 on increasing university tuition fees.

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