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Blair Cleared of Wrongdoing in Weapons Expert Death - 2004-01-29


A British judge who investigated the suicide of a government arms expert linked to a controversial BBC report on Iraq's pre-war weapons program has cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair of wrongdoing.

Judge Brian Hutton said the report that Mr. Blair exaggerated the threat of weapons of mass destruction to justify war was unfounded. He said the government's understanding of the threat came from intelligence sources.

The judge harshly criticized the BBC, saying editors should have examined the report before it was broadcast and should have followed up on government complaints more thoroughly afterwards. Weapons expert David Kelly committed suicide last July shortly after he was identified as the source for the BBC report.

BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned after the judge's finding were released, saying he takes responsibility for the broadcaster's actions. BBC executives plan to hold "crisis" talks on the inquiry today (Thursday).

Prime Minister Blair appeared in parliament shortly after the report was released, demanding that his critics apologize for accusing him of misleading Britain.

Judge Hutton also said no criminal activity was involved in Mr. Kelly's death.

Information for this report is provided by Reuters and AP.

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