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Britain to Announce Decision on Iraq Intelligence Probe - 2004-02-02

The British government says it will announce soon whether to follow the U.S. lead and order an inquiry into the intelligence on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has repeatedly resisted attempts to authorize an investigation into the apparent failure to uncover Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. For months, the prime minister has maintained that it would not be prudent to hold such an inquiry until the Iraq Survey Group of weapons inspectors release its final report.

Opposition party leaders and many members of Mr. Blair's own ruling Labor Party have been calling for a thorough examination of Britain's pre-war intelligence on Iraq's purported mass destruction arsenal and how that information was used. With President Bush announcing his intention to launch an independent investigation into U.S. intelligence failures, the pressure on Mr. Blair to do likewise has increased.

Mr. Blair justified the case for going to war based on the threat posed by Iraq's alleged chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Public skepticism about the government's argument deepened when the former head of the Iraq Surveillance Group, David Kay, said no weapons are likely to be found.

In a report issued last week by a senior judge, Mr. Blair was cleared of allegations his office had embellished intelligence about Iraq's weaponry in order to justify going to war.

But the report did not answer questions about the failures of the intelligence, and most people in Britain want the answers. The latest polls published in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times show that about 60 percent of those asked said they want some sort of an investigation.

In a related document, a Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee report says the failure to find prohibited weapons in Iraq is undermining the United States' and Britain's global war on terror. The report says that, in the short term, the war in Iraq may well have increased the risk of terrorist attacks against British interests.