UK Prime Minister Tony Blair would have been forced to resign if claims made in a BBC report about the case for war with Iraq being “sexed up” had been true, an inquiry is told.

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Mr Blair has given evidence to the Hutton inquiry into the apparent suicide of government scientist Dr David Kelly, the source for the BBC report about intelligence being exaggerated to make the case for war.

The prime minister said the report threatened his credibility and, if true, “would have merited my resignation”.

Mr Blair also told the inquiry he took responsibility for the media strategy that led to Dr Kelly being “outed” as the suspected source of the story.

During his two hours and 20 minutes on the stand he said the government’s controversial dossier on the threat posed by Iraq was not to be used “as the immediate reason for going to conflict”.

He added he had not been aware of any unhappiness about the dossier among intelligence officers.

Britain’s opposition leader said Mr Blair was complicit in ruining the reputation of Dr Kelly – Iain Duncan Smith said the scientist’s name was besmirched by the government in an act of self-preservation.

The prime minister was greeted by a noisy protest from about 100 anti-war protesters as he arrived to become only the second ever British prime minister to go before a judicial inquiry.

He was followed into the witness box by the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, who accused government spin-doctor-in chief Alistair Campbell of escalating the row over the BBC story into an “unprecedented attack” on the corporation.

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