7 October 2003

Revelation casts doubt on Iraq find

While presenting his progress report to Congress, Mr Kay did not say when and where the botulinum had been hidden but he told a television interviewer on Sunday that the scientist involved said he was asked to hide the botulinum in his refrigerator at home in 1993. Iraq admitted pursuing a biological weapons programme to UN inspectors two years later. It is unclear whether the Iraqi scientist had received any orders from the regime after that date.

It is also unclear whether the vial contained the bacteria botulinum, from which the toxin is drawn, or the toxin itself, as Mr Kay claimed in interviews over the weekend.

Furthermore, the most lethal form of the germ is the A strain, while the form found by the ISG was the B strain.

Mr Kay admitted that 'we have not yet found shiny, pointy things that I would call a weapon', but he insisted there was plenty of evidence of Saddam's intentions to reconstitute weapons programmes once free of international scrutiny. He said the scientist who had the botulinum toxin in his refrigerator had also been entrusted with many more strains of biological weapons, including anthrax, but had given them back 'because he said they were too dangerous; he had small children in the house'.

More evidence of such programmes was included in a 200-page classified version of the 13-page report made public, but experts in the ISG, including former UN inspectors, have so far not been allowed to read the classified version, according to one of their former colleagues.

The refusal to allow ISG experts to read a report on their own work adds weight to suspicions that the report has been manipulated. 'They're under huge pressure to come up with whatever,' the ex-colleague said.

Mr Kay has said privately the report's publication was held up for about two weeks while more work was done on it at CIA headquarters.

Boldface mine. If the ISG's own experts were not allowed to read the report, then what are its conclusions worth? If there was serious evidence why do we end up with jack Straw misrepresenting the vial of mass destruction? If the vial dates from 1993, when we know Iraq was working on WMDs, why is it's 'discovery' 10 years later probative of anything happening in 2003?

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