Published on Sunday, January 11, 2004 by Agence France Presse
Half of Britons Believe Blair Lied Over Naming of Weapons Expert: Poll
LONDON - Fifty percent of British voters believe Prime Minister Tony Blair lied over the outing of David Kelly, the Ministry of Defence expert on Iraqi weapons who killed himself last year, a poll showed.
The poll was released as Blair awaits publication of a report by senior judge Brian Hutton after he oversaw an inquiry late last year into Kelly's death.
Blair indicated to parliament last Wednesday that he would quit if it was proven that he lied over Kelly.
Kelly, 59, was found dead with a slit wrist on July 18 not long after he was exposed as being behind allegations that the prime minister's office "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction to rally support for the US-led war.
Half of Britons agreed with the statement that Blair lied in saying he did not authorise the leaking of Kelly's name, according to the online YouGov poll published in The Mail on Sunday newspaper.
Less than a quarter of respondents, 23 percent, agreed Blair told the truth, while 27 percent were undecided. YouGov interviewed 2,093 people online between January 8 to 10.
Observers had expected Hutton to release his report around January 15, but they now believe he is unlikely to do so later this month or in February.
Blair is expected to be grilled over Kelly later Sunday when he appears on a BBC television news show.
Kelly was named as the source of a BBC radio news report last May that alleged Downing Street beefed up intelligence on Iraq.
The allegation centered on a claim in a September 2002 intelligence dossier, released by Blair's government to rally public support for an Iraq invasion last March, that Iraq could deploy chemical weapons in as little as 45 minutes.
The suicide of the soft-spoken and respected former UN arms inspector hurled Blair -- US President George W. Bush's staunchest ally on Iraq -- into the worst political crisis of his more than six years in office.
In testimony before the Hutton inquiry, the most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, Kevin Tebbit, said Blair had chaired a meeting where the decision was taken to expose Kelly to the press as the BBC's source.
© Copyright 2004 AFP