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The judge heading an inquiry into the suicide of government weapons adviser David Kelly said on Friday he will ask Prime Minister Tony Blair to testify.

Lord Hutton, an appeals judge, said he would ask Blair to give evidence in connection with a decision to name Kelly as the possible source for a disputed news report on the government’s handling of intelligence on Iraqi weapons.

Blair’s office said the prime minister “will cooperate fully with the inquiry.”

Hutton made clear that he planned a wide-ranging inquiry not just into Kelly’s death, but into the government dossier on Iraqi weapons, which was at the core of the dispute which brought Kelly into the spotlight.

Speaking at a preliminary hearing, Hutton said he would also seek to question Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, and Blair’s communications director Alastair Campbell.

“At some stage in the course of the inquiry, I propose to ask the prime minister and the Secretary of State for Defence Mr Geoff Hoon to give evidence of their knowledge of the discussions that took place and the decisions which were taken in relation to Dr Kelly,” he said.

Kelly, a respected former United Nations *(UN) weapons inspector and adviser in the Defence Ministry, was the source for a British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) report citing claims that Blair’s aides doctored an intelligence dossier on Iraqi arms to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons and win backing for the war.

The microbiologist’s body was found on July 18 with his left wrist slashed. Two days later, the BBC confirmed that Kelly was the unidentified source for its report, which had sparked a huge row
with the government.

Hutton said he would explore how BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan compiled his report based on the Kelly interview, and how the Defence Ministry came to name Kelly as the possible source for the
story.

The identification placed him under intense media scrutiny and led him to give testimony before a parliamentary committee. Hutton said journalists would be able to follow the proceedings of the inquiry, which will get underway after Kelly’s funeral, scheduled for Wednesday.

He added that the proceedings would be made available on a website.

“I should emphasize that this is an inquiry to be conducted by me,” Hutton said.

“It is not a trial conducted between interested parties who have conflicting cases to advance. I do not sit to decide between conflicting cases, I sit to investigate the circumstances surrounding Dr. Kelly’s death.”

Before the start of Friday’s preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, Hutton asked for a minute’s silence to honor Kelly. – Sapa-AP

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