11 OCTOBER 2003, Page 40

Buried evidence

From William Shawcross Sir: Melanie Phillips is quite correct to scorn the new conventional wisdom that the evidence before the Hutton inquiry shows that Blair lied. The inquiry does nothing to disprove the government's conviction — accepted by every single member of the Security Council in Resolution 1441 of November 2002 — that this time last year Saddam was still concealing illegal weapons of mass destruction.

Excellent analyst that he was, David Kelly believed this too. In an article written anonymously for the Observer just before the war began, he listed the reasons for believing that the WMD programmes continued, and concluded that 'the long-term threat remains Iraq's development to military maturity of weapons of mass destruction — something only regime change will avert'.

In a draft article apparently written this summer, found on his computer and posted on the Hutton website, Kelly dealt with the fact that WMD have not yet been found. He said that 'in one sense the question itself is the wrong one'. A lot of WMD hardware — artillery shells, 122mm rockets, Scuds and Al Hussein warheads — had been found. `No one would expect to find the bacteria or chemical warheads' without prolonged searches and interviews. Regional commanders would have buried incriminating stocks of anthrax, botulinum, sarin and VX nerve gas once it was clear the war was lost.

'Western intelligence know there was a WMD programme for several reasons.' These included signals intelligence and detection of sanctions-busting imports of machinery through Syria. `If all this evi

dence is taken together,' wrote Kelly, 'it points inescapably in one direction only.' The irony is it never needed 'sexing up'.

William Shawcross

St Mawes. Cornwall