Hoon will not attend funeral of David Kelly


BRITAIN: The British Defence Secretary, Mr Geoff Hoon, is to miss the funeral this week of government weapons expert David Kelly because he will be on holiday with his family.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the government would be represented at Dr Kelly's funeral on Wednesday by the Deputy Prime Minister Mr John Prescott.

Friends and colleagues from the ministry will also attend.

A spokeswoman said the decision followed discussions with Dr Kelly's widow, Janice.

"Mr Hoon has discussed with Mrs Kelly that he will be away," the spokeswoman said.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Mr Hoon had decided to go ahead with a long-planned holiday to the US, despite warnings from Cabinet colleagues that his actions could be seen as insensitive.

On Friday the judge heading the inquiry into Dr Kelly's death, Lord Hutton, confirmed that he would be calling Mr Hoon to give evidence along with British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, and Downing Street communications chief Mr Alastair Campbell.

Dr Kelly apparently took his life last month after he was identified as the probable source of a BBC story claiming that the Government had "sexed up" its dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to strengthen the case for war.

Mr Hoon is likely to face questioning by Lord Hutton over how Dr Kelly's name came to be released to journalists.

Mr Hoon has already faced criticism for going to the British Grand Prix two days after the discovery of Dr Kelly's body in woods close to his family home in Oxfordshire.

He was also criticised earlier this year for taking a skiing holiday while British troops were gathering in the Kuwaiti desert ready for the invasion of Iraq.