Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  

Blair will survive Kelly affair, but Iraq row to go on: Robin Cook

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will not be toppled from office next week by the report of a judicial inquiry into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook predicted yesterday.

But a row over the way Blair took a sceptical Britain into the Iraq war alongside the United States last March was likely to continue, Cook said in an article for the Independent newspaper.

"The death of David Kelly was a personal tragedy for him and his family, but the even larger political scandal was how Britain was manoeuvred into taking part in (US President George W.) Bush's war on Iraq on warnings of an imminent threat which have turned out to be bogus," he said.

Cook, who was Britain's Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2001, resigned his post as the government minister in charge of relations with parliament last March in protest at the Iraq war.

"If Tony Blair wants not only to survive next week but to restore his authority he desperately needs to reach closure on the controversy over the war," Cook added.

Lord Brian Hutton, the senior judge heading the independent inquiry into scientist Kelly's death, makes his report next Wednesday, and it could prove highly damaging for Blair.

Kelly took his own life in July last year, just days after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story which alleged that the British government had "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq and its reported weapons of mass destruction.

The suicide hurled Blair into his worst crisis since he moved into Downing Street in May 1997.