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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 December, 2003, 03:21 GMT
Paper names '45-minute source'
Weapons of mass destruction
The Iraq dossier included the 45 minute claim about WMD
An Iraqi army officer has claimed it was he who told UK intelligence that weapons of mass destruction could be used within 45 minutes of an order from Saddam Hussein.

The officer, identified as Lt Col al-Dabbagh, told the London-based Sunday Telegraph newspaper he had provided several reports on the president's WMD plans from early 2002.

These included details of how frontline units were supplied with cases of WMD warheads towards the end of last year.

Downing Street has so far refused to comment on the report.

However, a spokesman said anyone with relevant information should contact the Iraq Survey Group as it hunts for WMD.

'100% accurate'

The 45-minute claim was a key component of the UK government's dossier on the threat posed by Iraq published in the run up to the invasion in March.

"I am the one responsible for providing this information," Lt Col al-Dabbagh is quoted by the newspaper as saying after he was shown the dossier.

"It is 100% accurate."

Forget 45 minutes, we could have fired these within half-an-hour
Lt Col al-Dabbagh

He told the paper how he reported on the deployment of WMD warheads to units such as the air defence command he led in the western desert.

"Forget 45 minutes, we could have fired these within half-an-hour," he was quoted as saying.

The devices were said to have been made in Iraq and designed to be launched by hand-held rocket-propelled grenades.

It is not made clear whether the weapons contained biological or chemical agents.

Lt Col al-Dabbagh said they were only to be used on personal orders from Saddam. He added that the bulk of the Iraqi army did not want to fight for Saddam.

"The west should thank God that the Iraqi army decided not to fight," he told the Telegraph.

Exile group

He said that he believed that the warheads had now been hidden at secret locations by Saddam's Fedayeen militias still in Iraq.

The Sunday Telegraph said that Lt Col al-Dabbagh had spied for the Iraqi National Accord - a London-based exile group - for several years before the war and was now working as an adviser for the Iraqi Governing Council.

Controversy has surrounded the 45 minute claim ever since it was made.

A BBC report that accused Downing Street of "sexing up" the dossier in which it was published triggered a furious row between the Corporation and the government.

During the debate government scientist Dr David Kelly was named as the source of the BBC report, and he was subsequently found dead after apparently committing suicide.

The Hutton Inquiry has been investigating his death and is due to report early next year.

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