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Heads to roll over Kelly death

From CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley

Strained: Blair is under intense pressure over the Kelly affair.
Strained: Blair is under intense pressure over the Kelly affair.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Just as well for Tony Blair on his tour of the Far East that British newspapers aren't landing on his breakfast table.

At home the pressure on him and his government over the death of weapons expert Dr. David Kelly has been intense.

In a YouGov poll on Monday, 68 percent said they did not believe ministers had been honest over their case for war. And 39 per cent said Blair should resign.

Blair has announced a judicial inquiry into Kelly's death and promised he will give evidence himself. But opposition politicians, scenting blood, want more.

"What is now necessary to clear the air and restore confidence is a full inquiry not just into the immediate circumstances ... but also into the whole range of issues that relate to the government's presentation to parliament ... of the intelligence that led up to war," Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin has said.

There was some relief for Blair when the BBC finally admitted Kelly had been the source for the claim by its reporter Andrew Gilligan that the government "sexed up" an anti-Saddam dossier.

The report said the dossier was tampered with against intelligence advice with the claim Iraq could unleash chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes.

Grilled by a lawmakers' committee last Tuesday, Kelly insisted he couldn't be the source of that story.

"Sorry, I just want to be absolutely clear on this. You do not believe that you are the main source?" Kelly was asked by one member of parliament.

"From the conversation I had with him I don't see how he could have, to make the kind of authority of statement he is making from the comments that I made," Kelly told the committee.

Facing a dead man's testimony the BBC too is now in the hot seat alongside the government, with Gilligan in turn accused of 'sexing up' his story.

The judicial inquiry could report in six weeks.

It might censure the committee whose grilling distressed Kelly, or the defence ministry which lawmakers say bullied him into the public spotlight.

It might blame the Downing Street spin machine which made Kelly the centerpiece of its war with the BBC. Or indeed the BBC for an inadequately sourced report.

Or maybe all the above. Whatever the findings, heads seem likely to roll.


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