- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

LONDON — The British weapons inspector who committed suicide last month over an intelligence flap remained convinced that Iraq had continued developing a biological-weapons program until the regime was toppled by U.S.-led coalition forces, according to a close colleague.

The weapons expert, who was buried yesterday afternoon in an English country churchyard, also believed that Iraqi scientists possessed the know-how and materials to construct a radiological weapon known as a “dirty bomb.”

The death of David Kelly, who slit his wrist last month after he was exposed as the source for a British Broadcasting Corp. report on British intelligence on Iraq, has been used by critics of Prime Minister Tony Blair to support their claim that he misled the British public.

Meanwhile, a top aide to Mr. Blair apologized Tuesday for comparing the dead Iraq weapons inspector to Walter Mitty, a fictional fantasizer.

The suicide of the scientist days after he appeared in front of a parliamentary panel investigating whether the case for war in Iraq was exaggerated has turned into a test of the Blair government’s credibility.

Mr. Blair’s official spokesman, Tom Kelly, apologized for linking the scientist, a respected government weapons inspector who made dozens of trips to Iraq, to the fictional daydreamer, the creation of American author James Thurber.

In two interviews with BBC reporters, the scientist was reported to have expressed doubt on Mr. Blair’s claim that Iraq could have launched nonconventional warheads within 45 minutes of any order to do so.

It is now emerging that Mr. Kelly was firmly convinced that Saddam Hussein’s regime did present a serious threat.

The scientist died only two days before he was due to fly to Iraq to join the secretive Iraqi Survey Group, which is seeking to amass evidence for the coalition leaders’ assertion that Iraq had biological-, chemical- or nuclear-weapons programs.

“I spoke to him by phone on his return from Iraq and four days before his death,” said Terry Taylor, a former British colonel who was a chief nuclear inspector in Iraq and worked closely for years with Mr. Kelly, who led the biological team.

“I didn’t detect any change in his view on the Iraqi biological program,” Mr. Taylor said in an interview. “He and I both believed they had a hidden program, and I detected no change is his fundamental view.”

Mr. Taylor, who now heads the Washington office of the prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies, was speaking after attending a high-powered conference of international warfare specialists at Saclay, near Paris.

Mr. Kelly was laid to rest in southern England’s midsummer heat after a moving ceremony yesterday, attended by British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and the judge who will hear evidence on the circumstances of his death.

Mr. Kelly had played key roles in getting first the Soviets and, years later, the Iraqis, to reveal key elements in their biological-weapons programs, Mr. Taylor said.

“We managed to break the Iraqis over their secret and illegal biological program in March 1995 — and David must take a lot of credit for that,” he said.

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