UK defence secretary's position 'untenable'

Evidence supplied by the widow of a British weapons' expert who killed himself after being dragged into a vicious row with Tony Blair’s government may cost the defence secretary his job.

    Hoon's position at the Ministry of Defence looks increasingly untenable

    Pressure on Geoff Hoon to resign is even more intense than before, with one British newspaper, The Daily Mail, leading with the question: “How can Hoon survive this?
     
    “Had he a shred of honour” left, the daily suggested, the Defence Secretary would leave the ministry in which he was only “nominally in charge”.

    Hoon denies being responsible for outing Kelly and blamed Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office and juniors in his own department for leaking the expert’s name.

    A widow’s testimony

    Janice Kelly told the Hutton inquiry on Monday that her late husband had felt totally let down and betrayed by the Government.
       
    When asked for more detail by Lord Hutton, she added: "The Ministry of Defence … they were the ones who had effectively let his name be known in the public domain."

    "The conflict will depend on whether regime change or disarmament is the true objective"

    The late Dr David Kelly,
    weapons expert

    His widow said Kelly had received assurances from his line manager and senior ministry officials that his name would not be made public.
       
    "I'd never known him to be as unhappy as he was then" [before his committee appearance], Janice Kelly said via videolink to the Hutton inquiry.
     
    Last days

    Kelly killed himself on 15 July, a few days after he was grilled in public by a parliamentary committee, following his exposure as the source of a BBC report accusing the government of exaggerating the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

    A statement issued by the family after his body was discovered in woodlands close to their home in Oxfordshire, said his life had been made "intolerable".
     
    Kelly said in an article he wrote just before the invasion of Iraq that there was no imminent danger, and the threat of danger was only "modest".

    The British Observer newspaper quoted Kelly as writing: "War may now be inevitable. The proportionality and intensity of the conflict will depend on whether regime change or disarmament is the true objective."

    Kelly's neighbour, Ruth Absalom and his friend, the journalist Tom Mangold, are also due to give evidence to the inquiry later in the week.

    The Kelly affair is proving to be the toughest survival test of PM Tony Blair's career. Last week, the Prime Minister's chief press officer Alastair Campbell quit his job over his role in the affair.

    SOURCE: AFP


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