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Blix slams UK Iraq WMD claim

Blix: "They over-interpreted the intelligence they had."

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LONDON, England -- Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said it was "highly unlikely" that Saddam Hussein could have deployed weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

Blix told the Independent on Sunday newspaper that the claim, made in the British government's September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons program, was a "fundamental mistake."

"I don't know exactly how they calculated this figure of 45 minutes in the dossier of September last year. That seems pretty far off the mark to me," Blix said.

"I think that was a fundamental mistake.

"It seems to me highly unlikely that there were any means of delivering biological or chemical weapons within 45 minutes."

Asked if British Prime Minister Tony Blair had relied on flawed intelligence or misinterpreted it, he said: "They over-interpreted the intelligence they had."

Blix said he had talked to Blair several times and that the prime minister was "strongly convinced" of the the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

"In fact, I was the one who was skeptical and critical, and said that I didn't think that the evidence was so strong, and said so to the Security Council," Blix said.

Britain's September dossier on Iraq also has come under fire for its claim that Saddam tried to buy uranium from an African nation.

U.S. President George W. Bush included that claim in his January State of the Union address, but the White House now says the allegation was unsubstantiated.

CIA Director George Tenet has since taken responsiblity for allowing Bush to include the claim in his speech. (Full story)

However, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has defended Britain's decision to include the claim in its September dossier.

Straw acknowledged Saturday the CIA expressed reservations about the claim, but he insisted it was based on what British officials regarded as "reliable intelligence" that had not been shared with Washington. (Full story)

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