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Byline: CHRIS McLAUGHLIN Political Editor

Blair faces mounting storm over WMDs DAVID KAY JAN 23, 2004 I don't think they existed .. I don't think there was a large-scale programme in the Nineties ROBIN COOK JAN 19, 2004 Tony Blair needs to accept he was wrong claiming Saddam had weapons of mass destruction PAUL O'NEILL JAN 12, 2004 I never saw anything that I would characterise as evidence of WMDs HANS BLIX DEC 16, 2003 My guess is that there are no weapons of mass destruction left in Iraq

TONY Blair was last night urged to finally admit that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.

Former Cabinet Minister Robin Cook led demands from MPs for the PM, who was still insisting as recently as last month that there is "massive evidence" of secret Iraqi laboratories and plans for missiles, to concede his reasons for going to war were wrong.

The challenge follows the disclosure from the chief US weapons-hunter David Kay - who sensationally resigned on Friday - that WMDs never existed.

"What everyone was talking about are stockpiles produced after the end of the last Gulf War," Mr Kay said. "And I don't think there was a large-scale programme in the 1990s."

Mr Kay's astonishing admission comes before publication this week of the report from Lord Hutton on the death of Government scientist Dr David Kelly.

And it follows grave doubts about the existence of WMDs expressed by former UN inspector Hans Blix in December and by former US treasury secretary Paul O'Neill just last week.

Mr Cook, who quit his post as Leader of the Commons over the Iraq conflict, accused Mr Blair of being driven by "missionary zeal" and "evangelical certainty".

Pointing out that it is now 268 days since the official end of the Iraq war without any WMDs being found, Mr Cook said: "It is becoming rather undignified for the Prime Minister to continue to insist that he was right all along when everybody can now see he was wrong. I think it is very important that Tony Blair does concede that there were mistakes made, maybe in all good faith. If we do not face up to the fact that we got it wrong, then we are not going to learn the lessons. We have got to drop this very dangerous doctrine under which we went to war on the basis of a pre-emptive strike. If there was no threat from Iraq we obviously had no right to carry out a pre-emptive strike to remove that threat."

Mr Cook urged the PM to use the publication of the Hutton report to set the record straight.

The sudden resignation of Mr Kay as head of the Iraq Survey Group wrong-footed Mr Blair on Friday night.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram called for a public inquiry into Mr Blair's claims.

"It raises very serious questions about the Prime Minister and what he told us last year, before and after the war, about weapons of mass destruction.

"It is essential to know the basis on which he made those claims."

The Tories supported Britain's involvement in the US-led military action against Iraq claiming that Saddam was a threat to international peace and security under the terms of the United Nations security council resolutions.

But until now they have not directly questioned whether or not Mr Blair was right when he claimed that the Iraqi leader was developing weapons which could be deployed within 45 minutes.

The Liberal Democrat spokesman Menzies Campbell joined the calls for a judicial inquiry, saying Mr Kay's view cast "severe doubt" on the case for war.

He said: "This would be very different from the Hutton inquiry because it would directly look at the reasons why we went to war rather than the specific circumstances of Dr Kelly's death."

Mr Blair's office said the search for weapons would go on. "It is important people are patient and let the Iraq Survey Group do its work," a Downing Street spokesman said. "There is still more work to be done, and we await that. Our position is unchanged."

Kay, who was appointed by the CIA last June, left Iraq for the United States before Christmas and never returned.

Former UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer has been named to take over the 1,400-strong weapons inspection team in Iraq.

Duelfer recently expressed his own doubts that any chemical or biological weapons will be found in Iraq.

-COMMENT: Page 14


REPORT: Expert David Kelly
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 25, 2004
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