Report: UK's WMD source top Iraqi
LONDON, England (CNN) -- British leaders argued for war against Iraq because their sole source was a member of the Iraqi military service at the time, it was claimed Thursday.
The military figure, who has not been revealed, was a trusted source of information for Britain over a number of years, a senior Whitehall official told London's Financial Times.
He told the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) that Iraq was capable of deploying biological and chemical warheads within 45 minutes. The information was passed on last August to politicians.
The claim, contained in the government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, has become the chief test of whether ministers "duped" the British public over the need for war.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is under extreme pressure from critics who question the government's reasoning for the war, accusing them of doctoring information to come up with 45-minute capability line.
U.N. inspectors found no evidence before the U.S.-led invasion in March that Iraq had reconstituted its chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix said Thursday. (Full story)
The British government has been accused of relying on information given by an "unreliable" source of the U.S., an Iraqi defector with contacts with the Iraqi opposition movement.
But the FT said: "Whitehall officials in two departments said last night the evidence of the 45-minute capability had come from a serving Iraqi officer with a record for providing reliable data over years."
Defense minister Adam Ingram admitted last month that the 45-minute argument was based on a single source which had not been corroborated.
Intelligence sought to find a second source but was unable to do so, the FT added.
"However, the JIC was prepared to rely on a single source because the official was a senior figure in Mr Hussein's regime, not a defector," the paper said.
Blair told a heated Prime Minister's Question Time Wednesday that accusations of doctoring the dossier was "completely untrue."
"All the allegations that are being made are completely without substance," he told the House of Commons. "It is completely and totally untrue." (Full Story)
He added: "The truth is some people resent the fact it was right to go to conflict and we won the conflict... Iraq is now free and we should be proud of that."
The JIC distributed the information through official channels, making it impossible to argue that the dossier had been "sexed up," the officials added.
Blair has refused calls by the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrats parties to set up of an independent judicial inquiry into the way the government had presented its intelligence assessment of Saddam's WMD capability.
But a parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee have been asked to carry out an inquiry.
Critics of the government have pointed to the lack of evidence unearthed in Iraq proving Saddam had WMD. Blair said he is still confident the weapons will be found, and has urged more patience.
The U.S. has upped its search team, sending the Iraq Survey Group, made up of 1,400 UK, U.S. and Australian officials to Baghdad.