Blair Hit by UN Spying Claim, Attacks Accuser
Thursday, February 26, 2004; 12:11 PM
By Mike Peacock
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain spied on U.N. chief Kofi Annan
before the Iraq war, former minister Clare Short said on
Thursday, threatening a fresh crisis for Prime Minister Tony
Blair as he tries in vain to put the conflict behind him.
Blair declined to address the claim, beyond saying British
security services acted within domestic and international law.
But the U.N. declared any such operation would be illegal.
"This is something which is not entirely surprising,"
Andreas Nicklisch, deputy director of the U.N.'s Brussels
office told Reuters. "It's illegal of course, but it's also
unnecessary because we work in complete transparency and
Short's allegation comes a day after Britain dropped
charges against a translator who admitted leaking a top-secret
U.S. document seeking London's help in bugging United Nations
members in the run-up to the war.
The former aid minister, who resigned after the war but was
in government during the period when London and Washington
sought U.N. authorization for military action, said
Secretary-General Annan's office had been specifically
"In the case of Kofi's office, it was being done for some
time," Short told BBC Radio. "I read some of the transcripts of
the accounts of his conversations."
Blair reacted angrily to his now frequent critic, saying
she was undermining the intelligence services and British
security as it faced a real threat from ruthless Islamic
"The fact that those allegations were made... is deeply
irresponsible," he told a news conference in his Downing Street
home. "We are going to be in a very dangerous situation as a
country if people feel they can simply spill out secrets or
details of security operations, whether false or true."
BLAIR CAN'T SHAKE IRAQ
Iraq has become a political nightmare for Blair. Ten months
after Saddam Hussein was toppled, none of the banned weapons
Blair claimed Iraq had primed for use has been found.
The premier's public trust ratings have slumped and many in
his Labour Party feel betrayed to the point of mutiny.
Bob Worcester of pollsters MORI said Blair remains favorite
to win a third term at next year's election but with a halved
majority of 60-80 in the 659-seat parliament, from 161 now.
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