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Blair spokesman behind 'Mitty' claim to testify
( 2003-08-20 12:55) (Agencies)

The man who sparked fury by comparing dead Iraq weapons expert David Kelly to the fictional daydreamer Walter Mitty is due to testify on Wednesday at the inquiry into Kelly's death.

Alistair Campbell, Director of Communications to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice to give evidence to the Hutton Inquiry into the death of government weapons expert Dr David Kelly, in London, August 19, 2003. A potentially explosive inquiry into the suicide of British scientist Kelly will quiz Blair's right-hand man Campbell on Tuesday about the case made for war in Iraq and the scientist's death. [Reuters]
Tom Kelly will speak at the Hutton inquiry to give his version of events leading up to David Kelly's suicide. No relation to the dead scientist, Tom Kelly is one of Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesmen.

He is expected to take the stand in the High Court in the afternoon following evidence from Godric Smith -- another of Blair's official spokesmen -- and senior Ministry of Defense official Kevin Tebbit.

Tom Kelly caused outrage earlier this month when he compared David Kelly, a respected government weapons inspector who made dozens of trips to Iraq, to Mitty, the fictional fantasist created by American author James Thurber.

The comparison, made on the eve of David Kelly's funeral, was seen as some as an attempt by the government to smear the dead scientist's name.

Thurber's Mitty is a hen-pecked man of modest means and talents who persistently daydreams about a much more exciting and glamorous life than his own.

Tom Kelly quickly apologized for his comments, made in an off-the-record briefing to reporters, and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott also said sorry, writing to the scientist's widow regretting the "unsubstantiated remarks about Dr Kelly."

Tebbit's testimony will also be closely followed as he tried, without success, to persuade Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon to shield Kelly from the public spotlight.

Kelly, Tebbit and Smith will speak before an inquiry which has already shed new light both on the events leading to David Kelly's suicide and the case the government made to justify its decision to go to war in Iraq.

On Tuesday, Blair's top aide Alastair Campbell rejected allegations he had hyped the case for war, saying that -- on the contrary -- he had urged intelligence chiefs to cut the rhetoric from a key dossier on Baghdad's weapons.

Campbell said he had "no input, output (or) influence" on the dossier at any stage, despite accusations by a BBC reporter that the hype was all his.

"I said: 'The drier the better, cut the rhetoric,"' Campbell said. "There were areas where the language was too colorful. I also said the more intelligence-based it was, the better."

Blair used the dossier to justify his case for defying public opinion to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Widespread suspicion among voters that the danger from Iraq's banned weapons was exaggerated has hit Blair's popularity and provoked the most serious crisis of his six-year rule.

Blair is due to testify at the inquiry at a later date.

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