SEOUL: British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday he would accept responsibility if a probe into the suicide of a government scientist pointed to any wrongdoing by members of his government.
But the prime minister said in an interview with Britain's Sky News television that he had no intention of resigning over the death of Defence Ministry biologist David Kelly which has rocked his government.
He also rejected a request from the opposition to cut short a Far East trip and recall parliament to debate the case.
“In the end, the government is my responsibility,” Blair said, when asked if he would take the blame for any wrongdoing by his government. The interview was recorded in Japan.
Asked if he had the appetite to continue in the job, he said: “Absolutely.”
“You've got to have broad shoulders in this job,” he added. “I've got them.”
Police confirmed on Saturday that Kelly had slit his wrists as his family described his distress after being thrust into the spotlight over allegations, aired on the BBC, that the government exaggerated evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify war.
Blair has announced an independent judicial inquiry.
Blair, who flew to South Korea from Japan, said the inquiry would have full access to papers and people in the government.
The inquiry should be allowed to run its course and Kelly's family should be left to grieve in peace, he said.
“This is a terrible personal tragedy,” he said. “What has happened is absolutely awful.”
The failure to discover Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the row over the BBC report and now Kelly's death have plunged Blair into the worst political crisis of his six-year premiership.
But Blair said he believed he was right to wage war on Iraq and was confident Iraq's armaments would be unearthed.
Blair was also adamant British terrorism suspects being held at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba would get a fair trial, either in the United States or Britain.
The two suspects have been set to face trial in military tribunals which could issue the death sentence.
Blair discussed their fate with US President George W. Bush in Washington on Thursday and Bush said he would suspend legal proceedings pending discussions with British legal experts.
Blair said there were two options, either repatriation or a trial that complied with British standards. Whatever the solution Blair guaranteed it would be satisfactory to Britain.
Asked about North Korea, Blair said the communist state was a “real threat and danger” and he criticised recent aggressive rhetoric in a standoff over its nuclear ambitions.
He backed multilateral talks involving China, Japan and South Korea along with the United States, to resolve the standoff.
Asked if the crisis could lead to military action against North Korea, Blair said no.
“But it does mean that we put an awful lot of pressure on the state to comply with international obligations,” he said.
Blair was holding talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun about the North Korean crisis before flying to China later yesterday. – Reuters
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