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Rediff.com  » News » Iraq dossier author heads MI6

Iraq dossier author heads MI6

May 07, 2004 13:10 IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to appoint John Scarlett, the official responsible for the widely disputed Iraqi weapons dossier, as the new head of MI6 has sparked off a political controversy, report agencies.

Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), will succeed Sir Richard Dearlove as the new British spymaster responsible for overseas intelligence, terror threats and banned weapons, said Xinhua, 

The Prime Minister's office announced yesterday that Mr Scarlett was appointed to the post of "C" - for Chief, the official title of the head of MI6 - on the recommendation of a panel chaired by the prime minister's security and intelligence coordinator, Sir David Omand, said The Guardian.

"John Scarlett has the operational background, personal qualities and wide experienceto be a worthy successor to Richard Dearlove," said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

But the opposition Conservative Party immediately called Scarlett's appointment "inappropriate" given his role in the Iraq dossier that triggered one of the most perilous periods of Tony Blair's premiership.

Scarlett played a key role in drafting the Iraq weapons dossier published by the government in September 2002 which included the claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

The BBC reported that the government "sexed up" intelligence to justify joining the US-led war against Iraq. Ministry of Defense weapons expert David Kelly committed suicide days after being revealed as the major source of the BBC report.

Scarlett and his predecessor Dearlove both gave evidence to Judge Lord Hutton who exonerated Blair's government of any major wrongdoing in the Kelly affair.

Defending the appointment, Blair described Scarlett as "a fine public servant who has served Conservative and Labour governments over many, many years. I think it is unfortunate if it gets embroiled in party politics, or people try to make political capital out of it."

AGENCIES