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SLUG: 2-313549 Britain/Spying (L)









INTRO: A former member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government says Britain spied on U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan in the tense diplomatic period before the war in Iraq. It was during this time that the United States and Britain were trying to secure a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to oust Saddam Hussein. Tom Rivers reports from London.

TEXT: The allegations have sent political shock-waves through Britain, which remains deeply divided over whether it was right to invade Iraq last year.

Interviewed on B-B-C radio, former International Development Secretary Clare Short said British intelligence was involved in a bugging operation at the United Nations.

/// SHORT ACT ///

(SHORT): These things are done, and in the case of Kofi's office, he has been done for some time.

(BBC INTERVIEWER): Again, let me repeat the question then, do you believe Britain's been involved in it?

(SHORT): Well I know. I have seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations. In fact, I have had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to war, thinking, 'Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this, and people will see what he and I are saying.'

(BBC INTERVIEWER): So, in other words, British spies, let us be very clear about this, in case I am misunderstanding you, British spies have been instructed to carry out operations within the United Nations on people like Kofi Annan.

(SHORT): Yes, absolutely.

/// END ACT ///

Ms. Short resigned from the government just after major fighting ended in Iraq, saying the war was not justified.

At a news conference later, Prime Minister Blair would not confirm or deny the claims.

/// BLAIR ACT ///

I am not going to comment on their operations, not directly, not indirectly. That should not be taken as any indication about the truth of any particular allegations, and I think the fact that those allegations were made is deeply irresponsible.

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Blair maintained that Britain's intelligence and security agencies act in accordance with domestic and international law.

This latest controversy comes the day after British prosecutors dropped charges against a former employee of the Government Communications Headquarters, who was charged in connection with the leaking of a secret document related to eavesdropping at the United Nations.

The official, Katharine Gun, admitted to leaking a memo from a U-S intelligence official asking for British help last year in getting information about members of the Security Council that had not announced how they might vote on an Iraq resolution. The memo did not say what kind of help was needed, but the Government Communications Headquarters specializes in monitoring telephone calls, e-mails, and other types of communications.

The prosecutors said there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute Ms. Gun. But there have been allegations that the decision to close the case was influenced by officials who might have been concerned that a trial would result in embarrassing revelations about eavesdropping at the United Nations. (SIGNED)


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