Blair dealt a severe blow by new revelations

Taipei Times
Friday, Sep 05, 2003, Page 6

Britain's case for war against Iraq is "in tatters" following evidence from a British former defense official to the inquiry into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly, London newspapers said yesterday.

Brian Jones, a former official from the Ministry of Defense's secretive intelligence wing, testified Wednesday that British intelligence officials were worried that a government dossier on Iraq's weapons ahead of war was exaggerated and that "significant" concerns were ignored.

British Prime Minister "Tony Blair's case for invading Iraq was in tatters" after Jones' "damning" evidence, The Independent said.

"The case for war looks flimsier than ever -- and so does Mr Blair's defense" headlined the broadsheet's editorial.

"The whistleblower," headlined The Guardian above a picture of Jones, who testified that there had been fears that some statements in a September 2002 dossier about Iraq's ability to produce chemical weapons had been too strong.

"The charge could not have been more serious," said the Daily Mirror tabloid, adding that Jones' evidence was the "most devastating" yet heard at the judicial inquiry, now at the end of its fourth week.

"Shot to pieces -- Intelligence chiefs blow apart Downing Street claims that Iraq dossier wasn't `sexed up,'" headlined the Daily Mail tabloid, a fierce opponent of Blair's Labour government.

Also describing the government's case for war as being "in tatters", it added: "Our country is mired in a dangerous and expensive commitment [in Iraq], with not a sign of an exit strategy.

"And still there is no satisfactory explanation as to why this government ever led us to war."

Kelly's suicide has plunged Blair into the worst political crisis of his six years in power.

The arms expert was found dead in July after being publicly identified as the source of a BBC report in May alleging that Downing Street "sexed up" the September dossier to reinforce the case for war on Saddam Hussein.

Blair denied the allegation when he testified before the probe last Thursday, saying he would have resigned if it had been true.

The dossier notably claimed that Saddam's regime could deploy chemical or biological weapons in as little as 45 minutes.

Jones, now retired from the Defense Intelligence Staff (DIS), testified that at the time the dossier was being compiled, he was the head of a DIS scientific section looking at nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.