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Blair to face Kelly death inquiry

Tony Blair
Blair set up the Hutton Inquiry after Kelly's death.

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SPECIAL REPORT
special report

LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair will seek to restore public confidence when he gives evidence to an inquiry into the events surrounding the death of scientist David Kelly.

Blair's appearance Thursday before the inquiry chaired by Lord Hutton comes as opinion polls suggest falling support among voters for his government and its decisions on Iraq.

Kelly was found dead on July 18 after being named as the main source of a BBC story that said the government exaggerated a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He apparently committed suicide.

The BBC story in May angered Blair, his ministers and leading defense officials.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told the inquiry that it was thought exposing Kelly to public scrutiny would undermine the BBC report. (Full story)

Hoon said he decided that Kelly should be questioned by a televised panel of MPs three days before his body was found.

But he denied there was a "conspiracy" to make Kelly's name public.

Blair, who set up the Hutton inquiry, is likely to be asked how much he knew about debates within government about the controversial dossier and how Kelly was treated.

He may also be asked to give more details about the bitter dispute between his government and the BBC, Britain's state-funded broadcaster.

About 70 members of the public queued overnight to watch Thursday's appearance by Blair. This is the third week of the inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. It is expected to last for several more weeks.

Nobody is on trial but Hutton's conclusions could have serious consequences for the government and the BBC.


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