Kelly's last paper: WMD threat real

January 23, 2004

A previously unpublished paper by government scientist David Kelly has provided a fresh insight into his views about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq and revealed new fears that Russia has retained prohibited biological weapons.

Just days before the Hutton inquiry is due to report, The THES has unearthed an edited transcript of a speech Dr Kelly gave to an international academic conference on security in Italy in 2002. It indicates that he was in no doubt that Iraq possessed dangerous biological weapons and also raises serious concerns about a similar threat from other countries, Russia in particular.

He told the conference: "I can confirm that Iraq certainly possesses them (biological weapons), and I deeply suspect that Russia also still retains biological weapons."

On July 10 2003, Dr Kelly, an arms consultant for the Ministry of Defence, was publicly identified as the source for a BBC news report that claimed the government had "sexed-up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He apparently committed suicide eight days later.

Dr Kelly presented the paper at the Amaldi conference of national academies of science in Siena in April 2002. It was at about this time that he was consulted on the Iraq dossier. Although some conference papers were published shortly before Dr Kelly's death, there was no written record of his presentation. But three UK scientists have since transcribed and edited Dr Kelly's words from a recording.

The paper is held by the National Academy of Science in Italy, and it may be published on its website later this month.

In his talk, Dr Kelly showed slides of biological weapons that had been found in Iraq. One showed a Scud missile launcher, and he said some Scuds were armed with biological weapons. Another image showed R-400 aerial bombs, which, he said, would contain about 100 litres of anthrax and botulinum toxin.

When he spoke, United Nations weapons inspectors were still not allowed in Iraq.

Dr Kelly said: "The status of that programme (the Scuds and the R-400s) in the year 2002 remains unknown." Later he added: "In the biological area, we are still not convinced that we know the totality of Iraq's programme."

Dr Kelly, who had been a senior UN weapons inspector, stressed that Iraq had never cooperated fully with the inspections process. He said:

"Non-cooperation was to provide limited or no access to facilities, the documents and personnel. You knew the going was getting tough when you were interacting eyeball-to-eyeball with an Iraqi and the video cameras came out and they were reporting everything you did in a situation."

But Iraq was not the only threat to international security Dr Kelly discussed. The paper also provided evidence of Russia's failure to eliminate biological weapons. In a discussion after his presentation, he told delegates: "I am very concerned about the Russian biological weapons programme. So I think any pressure that can be put on Russia to give up that programme should be applied."

When asked if Russia's leaders, including the president, were aware of the biological weapons activity, he said: "I believe they are fully aware that they have programmes. I think the difficulty they have is they're under immense pressure by the Russian military to retain that capability."

British academics who knew Dr Kelly said this week that the paper underlined his scientific expertise and integrity.

Sir Brian Heap, master of St Edmund's College, Cambridge, and the chair of the conference session at which Dr Kelly spoke, said: "My own views about Iraq were formed very much by what I heard from David. He was quite clearly convinced that there were weapons of mass destruction including biological weapons."

Julian Perry-Robinson, an expert on chemical and biological warfare from the University of Sussex Policy Research Unit, said: "I think those buffoons in the MoD didn't understand the quality of person they were dealing with."

He said: "When he joined Porton (Down), he was on a rapidly rising career structure, but he decided to step off that line to share his knowledge outside the structure he was in. That meant he became invisible to the bureaucrats in the MoD."

Lord Hutton is due to publish his report on Wednesday.

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