Britain spied on U.N. chief Annan, ex-minister says

Britain spied on U.N. chief Annan, ex-minister says

LONDON, Feb. 26 Kyodo

British intelligence spied on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in the run-up to the war in Iraq, a former senior minister said Thursday.

Interviewed on the BBC, Clare Short, former international development secretary, said, ”The U.K. was also spying on Kofi Annan’s office and getting reports from him about what was going on. In the case of Kofi’s office, it (spying) has been done for some time.”

Short, who resigned from the government in May after concerns over the lack of U.N. involvement in postwar Iraq, continued by saying, ”I know, (about the spying), 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.”’

Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to confirm or deny Short’s allegations, but said that should not be taken as an indication the allegations are necessarily true. He did say, however, that Britain acts in accordance with international and domestic law.

Blair said talking about intelligence operations ”would put at risk the security of this country and I will simply not let that happen. And whether intentionally or not, those who do attack the work that our security services are doing undermine the essential security of this country.”

Short’s comments follow a decision by legal authorities Wednesday not to pursue criminal proceedings against a former government translator who admitted leaking details of attempts by the United States to spy on U.N. Security Council members, as Britain and the U.S. were trying to get support for a second U.N. resolution to authorize military action in Iraq.

Katharine Gun, who worked for British intelligence authorities as a translator of Mandarin, leaked details of a memo which was sent by the U.S. National Security Agency in January. It asked for information about the voting intentions of some Security Council members.

It also asked for ”the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policy-makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises.”

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