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Gary Younge
NY editor slams apology for his record

A former editor of the New York Times has made a scathing attack on the paper's confession on Wednesday that it was insufficiently rigorous in its reporting in the run-up to the Iraq war, when he was at the helm.

Howell Raines was sacked last year after it was revealed that a reporter, Jayson Blair, had fabricated many of his stories.

Yesterday he defended himself against the implicit accusation that his aggressive management style had led to the paper running stories which were not adequately sourced or substantiated.

"My feeling is that no editor did this kind of reckless rushing while I was executive editor," he told the Los Angeles Times.

"I can tell you positively that in 25 years on the Times and in 21 months as executive editor, I never put anything into the paper before I thought it was ready."

Mr Raines particularly supported the work of the paper's bio-terrorism expert, Judith Miller, whose stories have been criticised for relying on the discredited Ahmad Chalabi as their principal and at times only source.

The responsibility for her mistakes, Mr Raines said, should be apportioned among those who supervised her work. Of the five articles singled out for criticism, Ms Miller wrote or co-wrote three of them.

"Any of the 30 or so people who sat in our front-page meetings during the run-up to the Iraq invasion and the first phase of the war can attest to the seriousness with which everyone took the story," he said.

In a rare extended correction, signed by the editors and entitled The Times and Iraq, the New York Times said on Tuesday: "Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge."

The note appeared to signify a candid re-examination of the paper's coverage, which many have accused of too readily accepting the Bush administration's rationale for the war.

But some inside the paper believe it was also an attempt to reckon with its recent troubled past, which has now reopened old wounds.

Although it was the Blair scandal which caused the crisis that led to Mr Raines' dismissal, few believe it would have happened had it not been for his troubled relationship with his staff before that.

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