Lord Hutton to report on 28 January

Senior British judge Lord Hutton will publish his potentially explosive report into last year's suicide of Dr David Kelly on 28 January.

    Kelly was found dead on 17 July 2003

    It's a week that could define Prime Minister Tony Blair's future.

    Kelly, the government scientist and Iraq weapons expert,

    slashed his wrist in a deserted copse last July after being exposed as the source for a BBC reporter's claim that Blair's team inflated the threat posed by Iraq, to justify war.

    The government helped make Kelly's name public and is likely to be criticised.

    "Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Doctor David Kelly will be...published in parliament on Wednesday 28 January," the Hutton inquiry said in a statement.

    On his verdict could rest the fate of senior ministers, government mandarins and BBC chiefs, maybe even Blair himself.

    Blair has said he will resign if the report finds he lied.

    Crucial vote

    It will be unveiled just one day after the premier faces a make-or-break vote in parliament on controversial plans to make students pay more for higher education.

    Lord Hutton's report will be
    released on 28 January

    Rebels in his Labour Party are determined to defeat Blair, posing another seismic threat to his authority.

    If he loses and is then personally criticised by Hutton, his Conservative opponents, rejuvenated under combative leader Michael Howard, will pounce.

    On the day, Hutton will read a summary of his findings in court and Blair will make a full statement to parliament.

    The judge will give interested parties, but nobody else, 24 hours to read the report before it comes out.

    He will then slip into retirement - giving him nothing to lose or fear from the establishment.
    Still no WMDs in Iraq

    Through summer 2003, the inquiry gripped Britain and polls showed public trust in Blair fading.

    Nine months after Saddam was toppled, not one of the weapons of mass destruction that Blair claimed the Iraqi leader had primed for use, has been discovered.

    Nobody involved is expected to emerge with much credit.    

    "I think there will be legitimate criticism of government decision-making processes and of the BBC," Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said. "Whether that's a resignation issue, I think we are quite a long way from that."

    Bookmakers William Hill put long odds - 20-1 - on Blair leaving his job by the end of the month.

    The Conservatives believe they can implicate Blair, although Hutton may not mention him at all.

    Blair has repeatedly denied any

    On the last day of the inquiry, Sir Kevin Tebbit, top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, said Blair had chaired a meeting where it was decided to make a statement clarifying the government's position - a move which led to Kelly's exposure.

    Blair's denial

    Days after Kelly's death, Blair emphatically denied authorising the leaking of the scientist's name to the media.

    Blair's aides waged a furious campaign against the BBC to retract the report by its defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan, something the public broadcaster refused to do.

    Government officials were then told to confirm Kelly's name to journalists if they came up with it - which they did.

    Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, Kelly's ultimate boss, is bound to feature in the report. Analysts have speculated he has been lined up as a fall guy if the government comes under fire.

    Hoon was placed at a meeting where officials at his ministry agreed to confirm Kelly was the suspected BBC source.

    And he overruled advice to shield Kelly from a hostile parliamentary grilling he endured days before his death.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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