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Blair Under Fire after Death of Weapons Expert

Posted July. 22, 2003 21:45,   


The tragic death of UN arms inspector is sending shockwaves through Britain. Dr. David Kelly killed himself on July 18 after being embroiled in the controversy over 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The online edition of the Financial Times reported on July 21 that Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon himself okayed the strategy of exposing Dr. Kelly as the source for BBC report, which suggested the government may have exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq in the run-up to the war.

Also the daily newspaper pointed out that over the course of setting up the strategy the defense ministry and Downing Street discussed the matter several times.

As new information continues to come out, Hoon as well as Blair`s communications chief Alastair Campbell is increasingly pressed to resign. The public is also calling for the government to open the communications between the Prime Minister`s office and the defense ministry.

The opposition party is suggesting that Blair should be subject to a special inquiry. Duncun Smith, leader of the conservative party said on July 21, “I will not be able to believe even a single word from Prime Minister Blair from now on,” stressing the fact that no WMD has been found in Iraq.

According to Japanese Asahi Shimbun on July 22, BBC asked one of its high-ranking officials and Andrew Gilligan, who broke out the story, to resign taking responsibility for Dr. Kelly`s tragic death.

“Reporter Gilligan failed to protect his source and exaggerated his report a little,” said BBC. Although Gilligan wrote in his report `Saddam is capable of employing WMD in 45 minutes notice,` Dr. Kelly denied saying that to the reporter during a parliament hearing.

The political instability began to have impact on the economy. Sterling remained under pressure after recovering from a three-month low against the dollar on Monday.

Blair and his Labor Party have tumbled in public opinion polls beneath the political storm. An ICM poll published in Tuesday`s Guardian newspaper showed Blair`s personal approval rating plunged down to just 37 percent.

Most experts point out, however, that Blair is not likely to resign over the tragic death of the arms inspector. Popularity of the opposition conservative party remains low and it seems there is no alternative to Blair just yet.

Many agree, however, that the distorted relationship between the politics and the media has led to the death of Dr. Kelly. With competition heating up in the British media market, reporters have been aggressively criticizing politicians, which in turn promoted politicians to resort to the so-called `spin culture` of twisting facts.

“The death of Dr. Kelly is a result of the long-held war between politicians and the media,” pointed out the Independent. The Guardian deplored, “It is a tragedy caused by the biting media and the spinning politics.”

Jei-Gyoon Park phark@donga.com