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Ex-agents attack Blair on Iraq intelligence

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair went too far in saying Saddam Hussein could swiftly launch chemical or biological attacks, two former British intelligence agents charged in comments published yesterday.

A statement that Iraq could launch attacks on notice of 45 minutes was made four times in an intelligence dossier published in September 2002, as Blair's government built its case for war in Iraq.

"The prime minister was going way beyond anything any professional analyst would have agreed," John Morrison, former deputy chief of the Defense Intelligence Staff, told the BBC's "Panorama" television program.

The interview is scheduled to be broadcast today, but excerpts were published yesterday on the BBC website.

Brian Jones, a retired top official at the Defense Intelligence Staff, the main provider of strategic intelligence to the Ministry of Defense, also cast doubt on Blair's use of evidence in the run-up to war.

Jones said he was surprised by evidence Blair gave to a parliamentary inquiry after the Iraq invasion about the intelligence he received on weapons of mass destruction.

Blair told the inquiry there was "a tremendous amount of information and evidence coming across my desk as to the WMD and programs associated with it that Saddam had."

Jones said no one knew what chemical or biological agents had been produced since the Gulf War in 1991.

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