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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 July, 2003, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
Blair in spotlight over expert tragedy

The knives are out, the fingers are pointing, or as the Daily Mail describes it, Tony Blair and his government are now facing their "Moment of Truth".

Instead of its normal single column editorial the paper devotes three to the apparent death of Iraq weapons expert and MoD advisor Dr David Kelly, and it pulls no punches at what it sees as a politically-inspired vendetta.

It says the victim was "pitchforked" into the very centre of a huge public row - and the motive was transparent: to put pressure on the BBC to name its source for a report alleging the government had embellished an intelligence dossier to strengthen the case for war against Iraq.

What the Daily Mail wants is the prime minister to cut short his round-the-world trip, Parliament recalled and the resignations of the government's director of communications Alastair Campbell and the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

The government would expect such calls from a right-wing paper, but they get short shrift from The Guardian, too.

"Vindictive" and "evasive" are just two of the adjectives it employs to describe the government.

BBC criticised

None of the players, it says, in this dismal charade emerge with much credit.

The paper also accuses the BBC of being less than open about any misgivings it may have had about the quality of its original journalism - a theme taken up by its columnist Hugo Young.

He describes its performance on who was the source of the story as "shifty".

Of Tony Blair, Mr Young writes that he decided his own reputation had to be defended whatever the cost - what started as a sideshow has now taken over national life.

And he concludes: "Such is the dynamic that can be unleashed by a leader who believes his own reputation to be the core value his country must defend."

The Times runs a profile of Dr Kelly, who it describes as the scourge of Saddam Hussein who ended up being treated with contempt.

Judicial inquiry

His role in disarming the Iraqis' biological weapons arsenal is impossible to exaggerate, says the paper.

While welcoming a judicial inquiry into his death, The Times says it is unlikely to find a "single villain" or a "simple explanation".

It calls for those proceedings to be conducted with a dignity and restraint which it says has been "conspicuously missing" so far.

The Sun describes him as an honourable and respected civil servant who suddenly found himself in the glare of the public spotlight.

No-one is to blame for his apparent suicide, it says, but some of those involved must start asking searching questions about their conduct in the affair.

The Daily Mirror reports a close friend of Dr Kelly who says his recent appearance before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee had left the scientist feeling "physical sick and very, very angry".

'Biggest crisis'

The Daily Telegraph says Dr Kelly's apparent death has plunged Mr Blair into the biggest crisis of his premiership.

It claims he was a victim of spin and that his name had been leaked to the papers by the government.

Why Dr Kelly's identity was revealed was one of the most serious question needing to be addressed, the paper says.

It claims the resulting media attention had left Dr Kelly feeling like "a rabbit caught in the headlights", unable to escape.

The Daily Express says although Dr Kelly had undoubtedly felt under pressure following his appearance before the Commons committee, it was too early to draw any conclusions about what lay behind his apparent death.


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