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UK govt's WMD 45-minute claim 'not supported'
Updated: 2004-07-08 08:33

The British government's claim Saddam Hussein could unleash chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes was inadequately supported by intelligence, the Financial Times said on Thursday an inquiry will conclude.

Citing people familiar with Lord Butler's report into intelligence which Prime Minister Tony Blair cited to justify war against Iraq, the newspaper said the intelligence to substantiate the claim was of insufficient qualify and intelligence gathered on Iraq was inadequate.

The FT added that Butler's report, to be published on July 14, also criticizes the credibility of the source of the 45-minute claim and the way the information was assessed.

Blair took Britain to war last year -- against the majority of public opinion -- on the basis of a now notorious dossier, released in September 2002, claiming Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam could have some weapons ready for use in 45 minutes.

No such banned weapons have been found in Iraq and the 45-minute claim has been discredited.

Blair asked former civil servant Butler to conduct a public inquiry into intelligence on Iraq after an earlier probe by Lord Hutton gave the government such a clean bill of health it was dismissed by many as a whitewash.

Weekend media reports said the head of the government's Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, and the head of the MI6 intelligence service, Richard Dearlove, will face criticism by the inquiry for allowing misleading information into the dossier.

The government's top lawyer, Lord Goldsmith, who advised Blair the war was legal, and the prime minister's former communications chief, Alastair Campbell, were also expected to come under fire in the report.

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