Russian Colleague Doubts Kelly Committed Suicide

Aug. 13, 2003
By Anna Dolgov
Special to The Moscow Times

A Russian colleague of David Kelly, the British microbiologist who died amid a dispute about whether British authorities falsified intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons programs, said Tuesday that he doubted Kelly committed suicide.

Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector, was found with his wrist slashed last month, just days after being harshly questioned by a parliamentary committee about his disclosure to the BBC that the British government had "sexed up" intelligence reports on Saddam Hussein's arsenal.

British police have said they are not looking for any suspects -- indicating they believe the death was a suicide. But Professor Sergei Rybakov, who served as a UN weapons expert and Kelly's immediate subordinate in Iraq in 1996 and 1998, said the microbiologist was an unlikely person to have killed himself. "Judging by his character ... I was very surprised to hear it was suicide," Rybakov said from the city of Vladimir, where he heads a rare disease laboratory at the Research Institute for Animal Protection. "And what really happened there, the investigation will show."

Rybakov recalled that Kelly was optimistic and even-tempered, never losing his cool even in the pressure of working on a team that could not always communicate well in the same language.

"Whatever happened, David always remained an equanimous and friendly person. In my view, such as person is not capable of committing suicide," Rybakov told Izvestia. "I can't imagine what could have happened to him during the past five years, during which time I haven't seen him. But it's unlikely that a person can change so much that he would solve his problems by suicide."

The accusation that the British government doctored intelligence reports to state that Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes' notice dealt a sharp blow to Prime Minister Tony Blair that possibly damaged his chances for re-election.

Rybakov said UN inspectors scrutinized all Iraqi facilities that could have been used for producing biological weapons and searched for any traces of such a program, but found nothing.

"The checkups of Iraqi objects were particularly thorough," Rybakov told Izvestia. "But we never found any confirmation that Iraq was continuing to make biological weapons or had preserved its arsenal."

Russia has strongly criticized the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq, and Rybakov said justifying it with fears that Hussein had stocked up on weapons of mass destruction was unfounded.

"When that war was being prepared -- and there was a big dispute whether it should be started or not -- I was certain, and I told all my friends and relatives, that the war was being started for nothing, that they would not find anything there," Rybakov said on Channel One.

A judicial inquiry into Kelly's death began Monday. It aims to investigate the circumstances of his death and the allegation that the government doctored intelligence reports. Judge Lord Hutton, who is heading the inquiry, has said he will call Blair and Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon to testify.

The BBC, citing an unidentified source, reported in May that Blair's aides had fudged the intelligence files. Officials vehemently denied the report, and after Kelly's death the BCC acknowledged that he had been its source.

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