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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Kelly said 45 mins claim 'unwise'
David Kelly, government weapons proliferation adviser
Dr Kelly questioned during a different public session before MPs
Dr David Kelly told a key parliamentary committee the day before he went missing that it had been "unwise" for the 45 minute claim to be included in the government dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The full text of Dr Kelly's appearance before the Intelligence and Security committee has now been published on the website of the Hutton inquiry - which is looking into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Dr Kelly appeared before the nine-member parliamentary committee in private on 16 July, the day before he went missing and two days before he was found dead, after apparently committing suicide.

The session came after he was named as the government's suspected source for a BBC report claiming that the dossier had been "sexed up" at the behest of Downing Street against the wishes of the intelligence services.

The report shows Dr Kelly denied he would have said the dossier had been transformed, as Mr Gilligan had claimed.

But he said he might have used the word "sexier", as Mr Gilligan had quoted his source as saying.

Details of meeting

Dr Kelly was repeatedly questioned about the claim in the dossier that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of giving an order.

The BBC report by Andrew Gilligan had quoted a senior official involved in the drawing up of the dossier as saying that the 45 minute claim had been inserted into the dossier despite the government knowing it was questionable.

At the time he was questioned, the BBC had yet to confirm that Dr Kelly was indeed the source of its story - and Dr Kelly told the committee that he did not believe that he was the primary source quoted.

The minutes show he gave details to the committee of his meeting with Mr Gilligan on 22 May.

Dr Kelly told the committee he might have told Mr Gilligan the 45 minute claim had been included in the dossier "for impact".

Asked if he meant the claim was included despite there being no good reason for it being true, Dr Kelly said: "I can't judge its importance because I don't know what it refers to, to this very day, I really don't know what '45 minutes' refers to."

Unwise

Dr Kelly said he could not think of any weapons system to which might refer.

He said the 45 minute claim "was very seriously discussed, particularly with people in the United Nations, in UNMOVIC, who were desperately trying to think about what system it is that they should be looking for when they went back into Iraq".

"But it doesn't fit any of the known Iraqi systems."

Asked directly if he thought it was unwise to put the 45 minute claim into the dossier, Dr Kelly said: "I mean looking backwards, yes, I wasn't involved in the actual inclusion of it or the information that was there."

Asked if he had seen any intelligence material about the claim, Dr Kelly said "no".

Did he think there was intelligence to back up the claim? "My assumption is that there is intelligence to back it up, yes, but it's only an assumption because I'm not privy to it."

Dr Kelly was then asked on what basis he thought it unwise to include the claim, given that he had seen no intelligence on which it was based.

He replied: "I can make a judgement on it based on my experience and my ability to identify a system with that, and from subsequent debate about it, I think if it had been put in, in a better context then it would have been better understood then it would have been - I can't think of a word to use - a lot easier to understand.

"It's not the wisdom of putting it in and out, it's the wisdom of how it's expressed."

Regret

The 32-page transcript of evidence also shows how Dr Kelly told them he "deeply regretted" his conversations with Mr Gilligan and recognised that issues discussed with him were "controversial".

Under questioning from Tory MP Michael Mates, Dr Kelly said: "I spent a long weekend thinking very hard about the situation, and I decided that the only way, my conscience of resolving the problem, was to write to my line manager and indicate the interaction that I had with Andrew Gilligan.

"I found myself uncomfortable with the situation that I found myself in and so the only way of resolving that problem, because I thought, for three days before deciding to write, and my conscience dictated that I communicated what I had done in the best way that I could, and that's exactly what I did."

Asked by Labour MP Alan Howarth if he still felt comfortable with the fact that he had talked to Mr Gilligan, Dr Kelly said: "I, of course, deeply regret it with hindsight, but yes, if this had not arisen it would have been a useful meeting for me."

Dr Kelly added that he regarded his meeting with Mr Gilligan as "more a private conversation" than a briefing.

Asked if his contact with journalists had ever led to him being reprimanded before, Dr Kelly told the committee: "This is the first time I've ever got into any trouble."




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