Kelly: Hoon 'accepts blame'

London - Britain's Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has told colleagues he accepts he must "carry the can" for the death of a government scientist at the centre of claims that London exaggerated the case for war on Baghdad, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

According to the paper, Hoon telephoned colleagues to tell them he expected to have to "fall on his sword" over the affair, which has triggered a major political crisis for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Last week, a judicial inquiry into the suspected suicide of weapons expert David Kelly heard that Hoon had overruled his most senior civil servant's request that the scientist be spared a public grilling by a parliamentary committee.

Hoon has informed friends that he believes the disclosure, and allegations that he was prepared to put political expediency ahead of Kelly's welfare, spell doom for his career as a member of Blair's cabinet of senior ministers, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

"He's told us he's going to carry the can," one close colleague told the right-wing weekly.

Some of the most senior officials of Blair's office, including media chief Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, the prime minister's chief of staff, are preparing to give evidence to the judicial probe in London this week.

Blair is due to be summoned to testify at some stage, along with Hoon himself.

The body of Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, was found on July 18 at a beauty spot near his home at Southmoor, west of London, days after he was grilled by two parliamentary committees - an ordeal he apparently found hard to endure.

The committees were investigating disputed claims by the BBC that London "sexed up" a dossier on Baghdad's weapons arsenal to bolster the case for war on Iraq launched in March.

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