LONDON -- There are still some very odd ends unaccounted for at the center of the enquiry regarding David Kelly's death, an enquiry that has already gravely dented the reputation of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. Kelly committed suicide after his name as a leaker to the press was deliberately surfaced, on Blair's personal OK, it now appears from the testimony of a top civil servant.

        Kelly was a career government man who once ran the British chemical and biological weapons center, Porton Down, before becoming a member of the Blix team looking for WMDs in Iraq. Near the beginning of September, the Murdoch-owned London Times, strongly supportive of Blair, ran three or four stories nibbling at Kelly's odd relationship to Mai Pederson, apparently an attractive Arab-American Kuwaiti woman who had been Kelly's translator when he was working as a U.N. inspector in Iraq in late 1998.

        Pederson is a master sergeant in the USAF, and according to the Times story, she worked at the Navy's Language School in Monterey, long known as having strong intelligence connections. After Kelly was found dead on July 18, the Pentagon moved her to Virginia and then to a base outside Montgomery, Ala. She won't speak to the press. Her ex-husband has spoken to journalists in dramatic terms about her skills in eliciting information.

        Now, 1998 was a time when the United States and United Kingdom intelligence services were desperate for information about weapons programs in Iraq. It was also a time when the Iraqis accurately charged that the United Nations' inspection teams were riddled with U.S. agents. According to his colleagues, Kelly was convinced in the late 1990s that Saddam was pushing forward with major programs in the chemical and biological warfare sector. He thus would have been a valuable target for U.S. intelligence.

        Whatever else she may have elicited from the quiet inspector, Sgt. Pederson successfully implanted in him a yearning to know more about her own membership of the Bahai sect, an offshoot of Islam.

        In 1999, Kelly visited Monterey, though he did not contact two other former U.N. inspectors who lived there. Guiding him was Mai Pederson, who described her role to other Bahais in Monterey as being Kelly's "spiritual adviser."

        By the fall of 1999, Kelly had become a Bahai, and sometime after that, Mai Pederson visited Kelly in England and met his wife, who has made somewhat muted statements about her. Pederson testified at the coroner's enquiry into Kelly's death but refused to let that testimony be transmitted to Lord Hutton, who is conducting the enquiry. After surfacing in Hutton’s enquiry and the press, she's vanished from the Kelly saga, and it is fair to assume that the United States exerted great pressure to get her name out of the Kelly saga.

        Like other religious groups, the Bahais had a definite interest in the overthrow of their oppressor, Saddam, though orthodox Islam has not smiled on Bahais either. So, was Kelly's relationship with Pederson a factor in his death? Why exactly did he kill himself, assuming that he wasn't murdered? Was it anguish at being exposed by the British government as someone who had lunch with a BBC journalist?

        It seems unlikely. Maybe he was told by his employers that they were prepared to make insinuations about his relationship with Mai Pederson unless he testified to the Select Committee at the BBC's expense. It's the sort of thing intelligence services do, and it's the sort of blackmail that can push some people over the edge.

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