The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 26 July 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Dr David Kelly, a Ministry of Defence scientific expert on Iraqi weapons, was found dead near his home in Oxfordshire with a cut wrist and a container of pain-killers. Hours earlier he had appeared before the Commons foreign affairs select committee and, when asked if he was the main source for an article by Mr Andrew Gilligan that blamed Downing Street for 'sexing up' the government dossier on Iraq last September, he said, 'My belief is that I am not the main source.' Mr Andrew Mackinlay MP had said to him in a rough manner, 'I reckon you're chaff. You've been thrown up to divert our probing. Have you ever felt like a fall guy?' Dr Kelly had voluntarily told his employers that he had met Mr Gilligan, but had then been put under pressure by the Ministry of Defence, being told that his pension was at risk because of his unauthorised meetings with journalists; between them the ministry and Downing Street's press department confirmed to the press that he was the putative source. Meanwhile Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had been given repeated ovations as he addressed both Houses of Congress in Washington. But within 48 hours, as he began a tour of Japan, South Korea and China, he was thrown into gloom and embarrassment, being asked at a press conference if he had blood on his hands. He appointed Lord Hutton, a judge, to hold an inquiry into Dr Kelly's death. Lord Archer was released on parole from prison after serving two years of a four-year sentence for perjury. Thousands of travellers were held up, some for days, when British Airways ground staff went on unofficial strike over clocking-on; there was much complaint about lack of information for waiting passengers. Mr Adam Crozier, the chief executive of the Royal Mail, said that figures showing it loses 280,000 letters a week were 'a major step in the right direction', since last year it lost 500,000 letters a week.

American forces said they had killed the sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay, in a house they had besieged in Mosul, northern Iraq. Earlier, in his address to Congress, Mr Blair said with regard to Iraq and terrorism, 'Can we be sure that terrorism and WMD will join together? Let us say one thing. If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least, is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive. But if our critics are wrong, if we are right as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.' The number of American soldiers killed in Iraq since the end of large-scale hostilities on 1 May rose to 41. Thousands of Shias demonstrated in the city of Najaf, chanting 'Down with the invaders'. Hundreds of Taleban soldiers are returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan, funded by drug-trafficking, according to General F.L. 'Buster' Hagenbeck, the American commander of coalition forces in Kabul. Fighting continued in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, between rebels and forces loyal to President Charles Taylor; a shell killed 25 in the United States embassy compound, where 10,000 Liberians had taken refuge. Australia decided to send 2,000 troops and police to the Solomon Islands (population 450,000), beset by fighting between rival militias. Mr Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Prime Minister, flew to Washington for talks with President George Bush. Harvests in France, Germany, Italy and Spain were badly hit by drought. More than 52,000 dogs were killed in four days in the city of Lianjiang, in the Chinese province of Guangdong, following 74 human cases of rabies reported since January; last summer 300 people died of rabies in China.