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Iraq weapons expert predicted 'death in woods'

( 2003-08-22 09:54) (Agencies)

Iraq weapons expert David Kelly eerily predicted his death six months ago, telling a British diplomat that if Baghdad was attacked he would be found "dead in the woods," the inquiry into his death revealed Thursday.

Chairman of Britain's Foreign Affairs Committee Donald Anderson arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice for the inquiry into the death of government weapons expert Dr. David Kelly, in London Aug 21, 2003. Anderson testified that Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon tried to stop parliamentarians from quizzing Kelly about the dossier on which Prime Minister Tony Blair  based a case for war with Iraq. Anderson, head of the parliamentary committee which gave Kelly a hostile grilling just days before his suicide, said Hoon approved Kelly's questioning only if he was not asked his views on Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction programs or the government's Iraq dossier.  [Reuters]
The diplomat recounted the premonition at the probe into the suicide of Kelly, who was sucked into the heart of a row over whether Prime Minister Tony Blair's inner circle hyped evidence about Iraq's weapons capability to win support for the war.

Blair, facing the worst crisis of his six-year rule, is due to testify at the hearing next week and the inquiry is expected to finish taking evidence late next month, judge Lord Hutton announced Thursday.

Former U.N. arms inspector Kelly, who slashed his wrist in woodlands near his home last month, told diplomat David Broucher in February he advised Iraqi officials that if they cooperated with weapons inspectors "they would have nothing to fear."

"The implication was if the invasion went ahead, that would make him a liar and he would have betrayed his contacts, some of whom might be killed as a result of his actions," Broucher told the inquiry.

Broucher said he asked what would happen if Iraq was attacked despite Kelly's assurances. "His reply was, which I took to be a throwaway remark: 'I will be found dead in the woods."'

"I thought he might have meant that he was at risk of being attacked by the Iraqis in some way," Broucher said. "I now see that he may have been thinking on rather different lines."

Broucher said Kelly felt he was in "personal difficulty or embarrassment over this because he felt the invasion might go ahead anyway and somehow this put him in a morally ambiguous position."


Less than a month after his conversation with the diplomat, U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq, saying Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had missed a last chance to prove he had scrapped his weapons of mass destruction programs.

Four months after Saddam's overthrow, no such weapons have been found in Iraq, raising doubts over Washington and London's case for military action. Blair's trust ratings have plunged.

Broucher said Kelly, who was the source for a BBC reporter's accusations that Blair's government "sexed up" a dossier making the case for war, believed British intelligence services had come under pressure to produce compelling evidence.

"He said there had been a lot of pressure to make the dossier as robust as possible, that every judgment (in the dossier) had been robustly fought over," he said.

The most dramatic section of the September 2002 dossier said Saddam could unleash chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes. But Broucher said Kelly appeared unconvinced.

"He felt if the Iraqis had any bioweapons left they would not have very much." Kelly also believed that deadly poisons "would be kept separately from the munitions and that this meant that the weapons could not be used quickly," he said.

Hutton's inquiry has heard a series of damaging revelations for Blair, including a memo from his chief of staff saying the September dossier failed to prove that Saddam was a threat.

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