Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Inquiry Told 45-Minute WMD Claim from Secret Service Was 'Too Thin'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Inquiry Told 45-Minute WMD Claim from Secret Service Was 'Too Thin'

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL WAUGH

INTELLIGENCE behind the Government's "45-minute" claim on Iraq's WMD readiness was so "thin" it was impossible to say what it related to, Lord Butler's inquiry into the affair has been told.

The rebel Iraqi general who passed the claim to MI6 knew only the time frame - and not whether it related to battlefield or longrange weapons. So his allegation, the investigation is set to conclude, should have been looked at much more rigorously.

Although MI6's original "CX" intelligence report was potentially valuable, it was so vague that it should have been carefully qualified in the Downing Street dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, sources have told the Evening Standard.

The claim that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological weapons attack within 45 minutes of an order to do so was deemed so important to Tony Blair that it was mentioned four times in the dossier.

The Prime Minister highlighted it in his foreword, in the executive summary and twice in the body of the September 2002 dossier.

Published in the run-up to war, the claim triggered headlines around the world. And as it was used alongside claims about Saddam's long-range missile programme, the impression was given that strategic strikes could be launched against Western targets such as British troops in Cyprus.

Evidence to the Hutton Inquiry suggested the intelligence services actually thought it might have related to short-range battlefield munitions - a threat only to Saddam's-near neighbours. Lord Butler-has been told that key intelligence experts in the Ministry of Defence had warned that the intelligence included no details of the munitions referred to.

Members of the Defence Intelligence Staff thought one explanation might be that it referred to Soviet procedures for time taken to resupply shells from forward storage sites to a frontline artillery battery. …

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