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BBC show blasts claim that case for war was "sexed up'

A British weapons scientist who committed suicide this summer said in a previously unaired interview that Saddam Hussein's weapons posed an immediate threat, bolstering the government's assertion that it did not misrepresent its intelligence on Iraq.

The revelation was contained in a documentary that the BBC broadcast Wednesday. It listed the network's mistakes in reporting that Prime Minister Tony Blair exaggerated the case for war in Iraq. Its producers described the BBC as being too loose with language, too distracted to investigate charges that its reporting was wrong, and simply negligent in checking the basis of a two-minute report on May 29 that members of Blair's staff had "sexed up" the case to go to war.

Dr. David Kelly, 59, identified himself as the source of that report. As a public furor mounted, he slit his wrists in the woods near his home on July 17.

The BBC documentary included previously unused film from an October 2002 interview in which Kelly was asked whether there was an "immediate threat" from Hussein's chemical or biological weapons.

"Yes, there is," he replied. "Even if they're not actually filled and deployed today, the capability exists to get them filled and deployed within a matter of days and weeks. So yes, there is a threat."

Arabs agree to whittle Baghdad's debt

WASHINGTON _ Former Secretary of State James Baker III has secured pledges from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to reduce their holdings of Iraq's debt, the New York Times reports, quoting an unnamed senior State Department official.

Administration officials and experts say that the debts owed by Iraq to a number of Middle Eastern nations are estimated at $45-billion, slightly more than the estimated $40-billion owed to the group of leading industrial countries known as the Paris Club.

An Internet report by Arab News quoted the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, as saying that while debt reduction would be "substantial," there was no agreement yet on what that would mean.

Lawmakers seek reimbursement for R&R

WASHINGTON _ Lawmakers on Wednesday questioned the Pentagon decision to reimburse air fares for some _ but not all _ troops coming home on leave from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a program started Sept. 25 to give vacations to troops and civilians in those campaigns, those on leave are brought to Baltimore from overseas. They had been paying for their connecting flights the rest of the way home.

The Pentagon decided to reimburse full air fare starting the day the policy was approved Dec. 19, officials said. But they decided not to make it retroactive, meaning no payments for those who took R&R from Sept. 25 to Dec. 18.

Two Minnesota senators who sponsored legislation passed by Congress to help reimburse the troops, Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Mark Dayton, said Wednesday that they sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressing disappointment over the decision and asking him to review it.

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