INTERNATIONAL

Saddam's officer 'source' of WMD claim

LONDON DEC. 7. A former Iraqi army officer, who is now an adviser to the U.S.-appointed Governing Council in Baghdad, has claimed that he was the source for the British Government's widely-disputed `intelligence' that Saddam Hussein could deploy his alleged weapons of mass destruction within 45-minutes.

He was identified by a British newspaper today as Lt-Col al-Dabbagh who had been feeding information to British intelligence while serving as a `loyal' officer in Mr. Hussein's army.

The disclosure is likely to embarrass British intelligence agencies who have consistently refused to discuss the identity of their source despite scepticism about its credibility after the late weapons expert, David Kelly's reported remark that it had been used by the Government to "sex up'' its intelligence dossier on Iraq in the run-up to the war.

During the Hutton inquiry into Kelly's death, the head of M16, Richard Dearlove, simply said the information came from an "established and reliable'' source. In an interview to The Sunday Telegraph, Col. al-Dabbagh insisted that his information was "200 per cent accurate''. "Forget 45 minutes, we could have fired them within half an hour,'' he said adding that he was willing to travel to Britain to give evidence to the Hutton inquiry.

The officer, who reportedly commanded a frontline unit before the war, said that cases containing WMD warheads were delivered to frontline units towards the end of last year and were to be used only at a "critical stage''. "We were told that when the war came we would only have a short time to use everything we had to defend ourselves,'' he said adding that the reason why the WMDs were not used was because the Iraqi army did not want to fight for Mr. Hussein. "The West should thank God that the Iraqi army decided not to fight. If the army had fought for Saddam Hussein and used these weapons there would have been terrible consequences,'' he told his interviewer Con Coughlin, author of "Saddam: The Secret Life.'' According to the report, Col. al-Dabbagh spied for the London-based Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Accord (INA), and passed on the information to it. It said Dr. Ayad Allawi, head of the INA and a member of the Iraqi governing council, `confirmed' that he forwarded Col. al-Dabbagh's reports to British and American intelligence officers "sometime in the spring and summer of 2002''.

Asked about the whereabouts of the WMDs, he said he believed they had been "hidden in secret locations'' . "Only when Saddam is caught will people talk about these weapons.''

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