Ex-U.N. weapons chief says British government embellished Iraq dossiers

Sunday, March 11th 2007, 7:06 pm

By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ The British government embellished intelligence used to justify the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector said in an interview broadcast Monday.

Hans Blix, who led the U.N. search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq until June 2003, said a later discredited dossier on Iraq's weapons programs had deliberately embellished the case for war.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government published a dossier before the invasion that claimed Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and could deploy some within 45 minutes.

``I do think they exercised spin. They put exclamation marks instead of question marks,'' Blix said in an interview with Britain's Sky News television broadcast Monday.

Blix said, according to excerpts released in advance, that Blair and President Bush had ``lost a lot of confidence'' once failures in intelligence were exposed.

Britain's dossier on Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction was criticized by a 2004 official inquiry into intelligence on Iraq.

Though the inquiry's head, Lord Butler, did not fault Blair's government, he criticized intelligence officials for relying in part on ``seriously flawed'' or ``unreliable'' sources.

Butler's review concluded that the dossier, which helped Blair win the support of Parliament to join the U.S. in the conflict, had pushed the government's case to the limits of available intelligence and left out vital caveats.

Blix said that if inspectors had been allowed to carry out inspections ``a couple of months more'' intelligence officials would likely have drawn the eventual conclusion that Iraq had no weapons stockpiles and that their sources were providing poor quality information.

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