HAKONE, Japan – British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) persevered with his Asian tour Saturday despite the apparent suicide of a weapons expert snared in controversy over Britain's case for war in Iraq.
"Have you got blood on your hands, prime minister? Are you going to resign over this?" a British reporter shouted at a tense news conference following a summit between Blair and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Speechless, Blair stood stony faced and rigid — with no answer to either question.
Kelly was suspected as the source of a British Broadcasting Corp. report that the government "sexed up" an intelligence dossier about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify joining the U.S.-led war.
The BBC reporter later specified that Blair's communications chief, Alastair Campbell (search), insisted on including the dubious claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical and biological weapons on 45 minutes' notice.
Kelly denied being the BBC source when he was called before a parliamentary investigation Tuesday, two days before his apparent suicide.
Blair, whose government denies hyping its information on Iraq, sidestepped questions Saturday about whether Campbell or Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon (search) — Kelly's boss — had offered to resign.
"Let me express once again deep sorrow for the tragedy that has come about," he told reporters in the hot-spring resort of Hakone, west of Tokyo.
As weeks pass without any weapons of mass destruction being found in Iraq, Blair has been dogged by accusations he exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam.
Blair's Asian tour, following a triumphant address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, was supposed to give the prime minister an opportunity to focus on international efforts to end the standoff with North Korea.
But the Kelly issue has pursued the prime minister abroad and marred the trip. A photo opportunity — Blair preparing a pizza to be auctioned for charity — was canceled Saturday.
Often jovial on trips abroad, Blair didn't even smile when Koizumi said the British leader would be sleeping on traditional tatami reed mats at Hakone and wished him a restful sleep after his long flight from Washington.
The prime minister was set to leave for South Korea on Sunday, before heading on to China and Hong Kong.