Blix warns inspectors on dangers of spin

By Anne Penketh

04 October 2003

Hans Blix warned the US-led experts hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq yesterday to beware the dangers of "spin" when presenting their findings to their political masters anxious to justify the invasion of Iraq.

"We don't want another epidemic of spin," the former chief UN weapons inspector told The Independent, as President George Bush seized on the interim report to justify his decision to go to war.

David Kay, the American- appointed head of the search teams, said in his interim report that in the first three months of his work no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, undermining a plank in the pro-war case.

Mr Bush said: "The report states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent botulinum, sophisticated concealment efforts, and advanced design work on prohibited longer range missiles."

But Mr Blix pointed out that none of this constituted the "serious and current threat" used by the British Government to justify war. Although Mr Blix did not accuse Tony Blair of lying, he said the Government "should have exercised more critical judgement".

He said: "There was not a serious or imminent threat. They could have carried on with the policy of containment."

Bernard Jenkin, the shadow Defence Secretary, whose party backed military action, renewed a call yesterday for an independent judicial inquiry to establish whether the Government went to war on the basis of faulty intelligence.

But Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, insisted the war was justified, saying that Mr Kay's report had produced "incontrovertible evidence" that Saddam was violating UN resolutions and deceived the UN weapons inspectors. "The fact they have not found weapons obviously does not mean weapons were not there."

The particular danger for the US-led Iraq Survey Group, which has been in Iraq since July, is that its credibility would be damaged if there was a smack of political input. Mr Kay, a former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector, has never concealed his hawkish views.

Mr Blix particularly warned of the danger of taking at face value statements from Iraqi scientists and officials, who may be "eager to tell them what they want to hear". He said that until they were checked against documents, they should be "taken with a pinch of salt".