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UK Suicide Scientist at Heart of Iraq Dispute Buried


By Russell Boyce

LONGWORTH, England (Reuters) - An expert on Iraqi weapons whose suicide has put British leader Tony Blair in the worst crisis of his six-year rule was buried on Wednesday at a country church near woodland where his body was found.

While friends and family attended the funeral at the picturesque 13th century St Mary's Church a few miles from David Kelly's house, there was little let-up in the row over his death convulsing British politics and media.

Government critics demanded the resignation of a Blair spokesman who caused outrage earlier in the week by comparing Kelly with fictional fantasist Walter Mitty.

The scientist was the anonymous source for a damning BBC report alleging London hyped Saddam Hussein's weapons capacity.

"It is bitterly ironic that a government that saw fit to employ Dr Kelly at the highest level, which trumpeted his expertise and praised his work for the United Nations, should now turn on him so monstrously," Professor Alastair Hay, a colleague of Kelly's, wrote in a newspaper article.

"And for Dr Kelly's circle, the agony must be all the greater because the aftermath of his departure is being played out on a public stage, with controversy raging all around."

At the funeral in Longworth, a village in the central county of Oxfordshire, mourners carried Kelly's body into the church as a single bell tolled and police kept onlookers away.

"We are here because of the tragedy that has taken place. We are not here for the media or to make a political statement or to apportion blame," vicar Roy Woodhams told the 160 mourners.

The former U.N. arms inspector and government scientist was found dead on July 18 after becoming embroiled in the vicious political row over Blair's case for war in Iraq.

Kelly, 59, had endured growing pressure since his off-the-record briefing to the BBC led to a May 29 report saying the government had hyped up intelligence that warned that Saddam could deploy weapons within 45 minutes.


As the report dominated the wider debate over whether Blair misled Britons in his case for war, pressure to reveal Kelly's name grew and he was summoned to appear before two parliamentary inquiries for some aggressive questioning.

His death gave a grim twist to the political dispute, and left the "Westminster Village" of officials and journalists arguing over who had Kelly's blood on their hands.

The head of a judicial inquiry into Kelly's death, Lord Hutton, was at the funeral, as was Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to represent Blair's government.

The Kelly affair has been a disaster for Blair, sending his trust ratings down, reviving his government's reputation for "spin," and keeping attention on the failure to find the banned Iraqi weapons which London gave as its main reason for war.

It has also brought criticism of the BBC, with some saying the world-renowned public broadcaster compromised its standards and heightened the pressure on Kelly by sensationalizing what he anonymously told its reporter Andrew Gilligan.

Although Kelly's funeral was a Church of England service, it featured prayers from Baha'i, the faith to which he converted in 1999.

Tom Mangold, a journalist and friend of Kelly's, said his family had remained "pale and stoic" throughout the service.

"It was a very dignified service," he said. "It was gentle and in every way reflected the man."

A Welsh hymn, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah, was sung at the start to reflected Kelly's pride in his Rhondda Valley origin.

©Copyright 2003, REUTERS/WBUR (Boston, MA, USA)

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