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Blair to decide whether to expel Short over Annan spies claim

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Feb 26, IRNA -- Prime Minister Tony Blair hinted Thursday tha 
disciplinary action may be taken against his former cabinet colleague 
Clair Short for claiming that his government spied on UN Secretary 
General Kofi Annan in the run-up to the Iraq war. 
"These are issues I will have to reflect upon," Blair said when 
asked at his monthly press conference whether the former 
International Development Clair Short would be expelled from the 
ruling Labour Party. 
He described his former minister, who resigned last year over his 
Iraq policy, as "deeply irresponsible" for claiming in an interview 
with BBC radio earlier Thursday that British spies bugged Annan`s 
Those who commented on intelligence matters "attack the work that 
our security services are doing and undermine the security of this 
country," Blair said without confirming or denying the substance of 
Short`s accusations. 
But he insisted that his refusal to comment on the claims should 
not be taken that they were true, saying that British Prime Ministers 
had a precedent for never commenting on the work of the intelligence 
services except to say they always act within the law. 
Speaking on BBC radio, the former International Development 
Secretary said that she knew that the UK bugged the UN Secretary 
General`s Office because she had "seen transcripts of Kofi Annan`s 
conversations" while she was a minister. 
Blair also refused to say whether legal action could be taken 
against Short for breaking the Official Secrets Act. "I don`t deal 
with who is prosecuted and who is not prosecuted under the Official 
Secrets Act," he said. 
The former minister made her spying claim following the sudden 
dropping of an official secrets prosecution against former employee 
of Britain`s GCHQ spying agency, Katharine Gun for leaking details of 
a US requests to tap UN delegates` phones ahead of the Iraq war. 
The Prime Minister insisted that neither he nor Foreign Secretary 
Jack Straw had any role in the case being dropped amid speculation 
that it was to save the UK and US governments facing questions about 
the legal justification for the Iraq war. 
He also denied that it could lead to more officials exposing 
secrets without being prosecuted, especially in relation to sensitive 
material over the reasons for going to war. 
"Nobody should be in any doubt that we will apply the full rigour 
of the law to the greatest extent that we can do so should people 
choose to breach the official secrets of the country, and therefore 
breach the interests of the country, frankly," Blair said. 

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