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[casi] Scientist's demise stalks Blair

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Subject: Scientist's  demise stalks Blair
Date: Mon, 21 Jul 2003 22:15:11 -0400
Message-ID: <>

    Scientist's Demise Stalks Blair by Christine Boyd

    Published on Monday, July 21, 2003 by the Globe and Mail (Canada)

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair struggled yesterday to quell the
biggest crisis of his leadership, ruling out his resignation over the
apparent suicide of a government weapons expert but promising to take
responsibility if an inquiry finds that the government had a role in the
man's death.

    Mr. Blair persevered with a tour through East Asia despite a weekend
in which journalists peppered him with questions about his role in the
scandal over the handling of intelligence used to justify war against

    But he was unable to shake the spectre of David Kelly, found dead
with his left wrist slit near his Oxfordshire home on Friday.

    The British Broadcasting Corp. confirmed yesterday that the scientist
was its source for a May report that Downing Street inflated the threat
posed by Iraq.

    "I have been through quite a few times when people have said this is
a terrible situation and all the rest of it . . . but you go through
tough times as a government and you go through difficult times as the
Prime Minister," Mr. Blair told Britain's Sky Television before he left
Japan for South Korea and China. Asked if he felt he could
continue as Prime Minister, a haggard-looking Mr. Blair  replied:

    But the British leader, struggling to woo an increasingly
disenchanted public and hold his party together as the conflict in Iraq
drags on, faced rising calls for his government to be held accountable --
even from within his party.

    As recently as Thursday, Mr. Blair was riding high after wringing
concessions from Washington on trials for Britons and Australians being
held on terrorism charges.

    Then, as the Prime Minister travelled to Asia, Dr. Kelly's body was

    The British Defence Ministry microbiologist and former United Nations
weapons inspector was a quiet scientist with a sterling international
reputation, but he was caught up in a bitter public spat between the BBC
and Mr. Blair's powerful communications director, Alastair Campbell.

    The BBC's disclosure yesterday was confirmation that Dr. Kelly was
the source of its report accusing the Prime Minister's Office of ordering
intelligence officials to "sex up" the arms reports. Many in Britain had
accused BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan of having inaccurately reported his

    But the scientist was placed directly and uncomfortably in the public
eye when his name was leaked, and he was pushed before a parliamentary

    Labour MP Glenda Jackson, a former transport minister, demanded
yesterday that Mr. Blair resign -- along with Mr. Campbell, whom the BBC
accused of spearheading the campaign to torque the intelligence reports,
and Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon, who has been accused of leaking Dr.
Kelly's name to the news media to distract reporters from that

    "This tragic human disaster came as a result of the artificial
warthat had been quite deliberately created by No. 10 [Downing Street,
the Prime Minister's official residence]," she told the BBC's Breakfast
With Frost. "We have seen a highly respected, innocent, devoted public
servant being sacrificed as a result of a quite deliberate political
strategy to afford a smoke screen, as someone has called it, for the

    Tory Opposition Leader Iain Duncan Smith and Liberal Democrat Leader
Charles Kennedy called on the Prime Minister to cut short his trip and
recall Parliament, indicating that they believe he is seriously wounded.

    Mr. Blair rejected those suggestions, promising to be accountable if
a government judicial inquiry determines his officials acted
inappropriately. "In the end, the government is my responsibility. I can
assure you the judge will be able to get to what facts, what people, what
papers he wants."

    He was less composed on Saturday, when he faced determined
questioning from British journalists in Japan. During a news conference,
one reporter shouted: "Have you got blood on your hands, Prime Minister?
Are you going to resign over this?" The Prime Minister appeared stunned
by the question.

    Mr. Blair battles growing criticism over lack of evidence that Iraq
had weapons of mass destruction, a key justification he used to build a
case for war to a reluctant public and Parliament.

    If no evidence turns up before the Labour Party holds its annual
conference in late September, the Prime Minister could face open revolt,
political heavyweights said.

    "The party will plunge into deeper turmoil than ever," a senior
Labour parliamentarian told Reuters News Agency. "A prime minister
without a party will not be prime minister for long."

    The judicial inquiry into Dr. Kelly's death, led by senior judge Lord
Hutton, could land the final blow if it criticizes government officials
when it reports in September.

    "I'm sure when Lord Hutton comes to give his conclusions . . .
everybody who might be affected by those judgments has to reflect hard
and long on their  positions," Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said.

    Crisis chronology

    Britain's dossier scandal:

    Sept. 24, 2002: Britain publishes a dossier on Iraq's weapons program
that claims Iraqi president Saddam Hussein could launch a weapon of mass
destruction on 45 minutes notice.

    Feb. 7, 2003: British officials concede that sections of another
dossier on Iraq's security services, published on a government Web site,
were lifted from a student thesis. The dossier was compiled by Prime
Minister Tony Blair's communications chief, Alastair Campbell, and was
not approved by intelligence staff. Mr. Campbell promises the secret
service that he will take more care in presenting such material to the

    May 29, 2003: The British Broadcasting Corp. cites an anonymous
intelligence source saying that Mr. Campbell inserted the 45-minute claim
into the dossier, sparking a battle between the government and the public
broadcaster. Mr. Campbell denies that he "sexed up" the dossier to
persuade reluctant legislators to back the war and demands
the BBC apologize. It refuses.

    July 7: A parliamentary committee concludes that Mr. Campbell did not
play a role in including the 45-minutes claim. But it criticizes the
dossier in other respects, and the BBC says the report justifies its
decision to air the original charge.

    July 8: The White House says that a claim in U.S. President George W.
Bush's State of the Union address, which cited the British government,
was based on forged documents. But the British government says that its
information, included in the dossier, came from other

    July 15: Former United Nations weapons inspector David Kelly tells
parliamentarians that he could not have been the main source of the BBC
story, as suggested by the government, because the story does not match
his statements to BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan.

    July 18: British police find the body of a man that matches Dr.
Kelly's description. The next day, police reveal that the scientist died
of a slit wrist, leaving little doubt he had taken his own life.
[Really?? Can a man's wrist not be cut by another?]

    July 20: The BBC confirms that Dr. Kelly was the source for the
report claiming that the government exaggerated its intelligence about
Iraqi weapons. Mr. Blair rejects calls for his resignation.

    (c) 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc



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