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Kelly affair continues to haunt Blair

The airing of a television documentary featuring the late weapons expert Dr David Kelly has dealt another blow to the Blair government.

Last Modified: 22 Jan 2004 19:23 GMT
The controversy has kept Blair under increased pressure

The airing of a television documentary featuring the late weapons expert Dr David Kelly has dealt another blow to the Blair government.

An interview with Kelly formed part of a BBC’s Panorama programme which aired on Wednesday. 

In the interview, the weapons expert stated that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within days or weeks, rather than the 45 minutes initially mentioned in the controversial government dossier.

The broadcast comes at a time when 10 Downing Street already has its back against the wall over its reasons for going to war in Iraq and the inability to discover any weapons of mass destruction.

Kelly apparently committed suicide in July 2003 after being named as the BBC source for a story that the Blair government had "sexed up" the government's Iraq weapons dossier.

The interview was recorded in October 2002, one month after the prime minister presented the controversial intelligence dossier to Parliament. Kelly’s interview was never broadcast

“The Prime Minister has a lot of explaining to do; this doesn’t help the situation at all. The more this continues, the more distressed MPs become.”
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP

Immediate threat

When asked whether he felt Saddam Hussein posed an “immediate threat”, in terms of weapons of mass destruction, Kelly responded:

“Yes there is. Even if they’re not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks. So yes, there is a threat.”

'Saddam's reluctance'

But Kelly added that Saddam Hussein would probably be reluctant to use weapons of mass destruction unless attacked first.

Government officials have refused to comment on the report – citing its policy of silence until the release of the Hutton report - next week. Lord Hutton has been looking into the circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide of David Kelly.

Following the Panorama broadcast Conservative party members have renewed demands for a full inquiry into British intelligence and the reasons for going to war.

And the party is not alone in demanding answers.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell told Aljazeera.net that the Kelly interview further undermines Blair’s reasons for going to war.

“The British public was told that there was a real and present danger, but Dr Kelly added scepticism to government claims that British interests were at risk.”

“The legal advice to go to war has been undermined, so a full and independent inquiry is therefore necessary,” Campbell said.

Dr David Kelly was found dead
in July 2003 in an apparent suicide

He added that the Hutton report will most likely be a “narrow report based on narrow findings.”

Labour anger

Labour party members, meanwhile, have voiced frustration at the uncomfortable position in which the government finds itself.

Speaking to Aljazeera.net, Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said he was angered by the revelations in the interview.

“The Prime Minister has a lot of explaining to do; this doesn’t help the situation at all. The more this continues, the more distressed MPs become,” Corbyn said.

“This shows the ineffectiveness of our own internal inquiries and the need for external inquiries.”

“The assertions that the government made have proved to be untrue,” Corbyn  added.

Prime Minister Blair has seen a sharp decrease in approval ratings since the Kelly saga began. Although some observers suggest that Blair could survive the public backlash, the Hutton report is likely to have a substantial impact on all parties involved.

Apart from a fractured and disillusioned Labour Party, Corbyn suggested that there could be legal implications for the government.

“There is already one widow of a British soldier who has launched a suit, and there are threats of more to come.”

Source:
Aljazeera
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