The Government Iraq dossier "did not correspond with reality", the UN's chief weapons inspector said yesterday, casting further doubts on its use to bolster Britain's case for going to war.
The focus of the criticism was the Government's intelligence claim that Saddam Hussein's regime was capable of deploying weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
It is the same claim that has featured heavily in the Hutton inquiry, which will today begin its fourth week investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the scientist Dr David Kelly.
Dimitris Perricos, who replaced Hans Blix as the chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq two months ago, dismissed the intelligence as having no foundation in truth.
He also said that inspections found no evidence to support British and American accusations that Saddam possesssed an arsenal capable of widespread death and damage.
"There is no doubt that the phrase 'within 45 minutes' that was included in the British report did not correspond to reality," Mr Perricos said in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia.
"The assertion that the Iraqis had a capability to inflict overwhelming destruction within 45 minutes is collapsing.
"The uranium never existed, and the aluminum pipes that supposedly [were to be] used in the enrichment of uranium possibly were just intended to be used for bombshells."
As teams of British, American and Australian troops continued to search for evidence of chemical or biological weapons, Mr Perricos said that there had been no discovery to date of a "smoking gun" in Iraq.
"From the inspections, no evidence was found that would justify a war," he said.
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