UN Iraq inspectors spied for US

Washington: Jan 6 (South News) UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has obtained what he regards as convincing evidence that United Nations arms inspectors helped collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine the Iraqi regime, according to a report by the Washington Post newspaper on Wednesday.

The report, made available to Annan, some of which draw on classified U.S. information passed to him through intermediaries, describe an operation in which the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, took steps to assist the United States in listening to some of the most sensitive communications.

One source was quoted by the Post as saying: "The Secretary-General has become aware of the fact that Unscom directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate."

"The United Nations cannot be party to an operation to overthrow one of its member states. In the most fundamental way, that is what's wrong with the Unscom,'' the source also said.

The newspaper said Mr Annan was "alarmed" at the implications of the evidence which, if true, could undermine the UN's neutrality.

The report seems to indicate Iraq accusations that UNSCOM weapons inspectors of spying for the US and Israel, a charge previously denied.

The report claims on Oct. 12 that an UNSCOM operation code-named 'Shake the Tree' involved synchronizing arms inspections with a new synthesis of intelligence techniques allowing Washington to look and listen. But at the request of the US government, the newspaper agreed to withhold from that story's operational details on national security grounds.

Mr Annan received the classified US intelligence about the eavesdropping activities through intermediaries, according to the Post.

It also said Mr Annan had confronted Richard Butler, head of the Unscom team, with the reports of alleged help received by the US. Quoting two unidentified sources, the newspaper said Mr Butler had denied the reports.

He was quoted by the Washington Post as saying that he had never authorised any help to member states that would serve their own purposes.

The newspaper quoted sources as acknowledging that Mr Annan would like Mr Butler to resign in favour of someone who might be able to win the consent of Iraq and those countries on the UN Security Council sympathetic to it.

The Boston Globe also carried a similar report in its Wednesday editions of alleged UN assistance in US operations in Iraq.

Washington Post article