Scientist briefed Hoon days before attack on Iraq
David Kelly spoke openly to fellow members of a religious sect about his concerns over the 'interpretation' of intelligence material in the Government's September dossier on whether Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
As the dead scientists' family yesterday met the senior law lord appointed to head the judicial inquiry into the affair, remarkable new details emerged of Kelly's views on the dossier during a discussion with worshippers of the Bahai faith, a Persian religion that promotes global peace, inter-racial harmony and self-discipline.
The disclosure of new evidence about his 'unhappiness' with the dossier came as it was revealed last night that Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, had a private lunch with the weapons scientist shortly before the Iraq conflict, undermining government claims that Kelly was a middle-ranking official with little access to intelligence.
Hoon met Kelly to discuss Saddam and the weapons of mass destruction. Although it is not clear whether Kelly raised his concerns about the use of intelligence to make the case for war, it is unusual for a member of the Cabinet to meet officials unless they have high levels of information unlikely to be known by the Minister.
Kelly, who joined the 5000-strong British followers of the Bahai faith in 1999, made his comments at the home of Geeta and Roger Kingdon, two fellow worshippers, in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, on 5 October last year. Also present were around 30 other invited Bahai guests.
Kelly gave a 40-minute talk, which was accompanied with a slide show, about his work as a weapons inspector in Iraq. He ended with a question-and-answer session on the intelligence dossier, which had been made public 10 days earlier as part of what opponents claim was a government attempt to swing public opinion behind war on Iraq.
Roger Kingdon told The Observer last night that Kelly expressed his unhappiness with how the document was being interpreted, saying the intelligence information supplied was accurate, but indicating that he was uncomfortable about how it was being represented.