Spying pennies drop for Butler

UNITED NATIONS: Jan 8 (South News) - In a last minute wake up, Richard Butler said he now wants answers from Washington about its reported effort to "piggyback" on the work of UN inspectors for its own foreign policy goals in Iraq.

Butler said he brought the matter up with US officials on Thursday, asking them ``what they might have done unbeknownst to us,'' in reportedly using UN weapons searches in Iraq for US intelligence purposes

He has also discussed his concerns with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who in turn spoke on the phone with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Annan and Albright discussed the ``piggybacking'' allegation, UN officials said. Albright assured Annan that Americans in or connected with UNSCOM strictly supported Security Council resolutions.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Butler said he expected to have a ``relevant conversation about it'' on Friday with US officials and that he ``wanted real answers.''

``We don't want our system misused in that way,'' Butler said.

It is known that American experts were attached to UNSCOM on temporary assignment. But once these officials returned to their US agencies, they carried with them valuable information that vastly improved the US intelligence picture of Iraq, information useful to strike target planners, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Butler denied his own staff had ever spied, but said he wanted Washington to clarify whether ``some other collection efforts or piggybacking on us may have been taking place.''

UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard said today that the United Nations wasn't in a position to investigate such allegations itself, and said it would have to wait to see if any of the charges were corroborated.

``The United Nations is not Scotland Yard,'' he said.

But Iraqi officials called on the UN Security Council meanwhile to ``act firmly'' in response to US newspaper reports that the United States had used the UN Special Commission on disarmament to spy on the Iraqi leadership.

Iraqi Information Minister Humam Abdel Khaleq Abdel Ghafour said the  reports proved what Iraq had been saying all along.

     ``We have been telling the whole world for the past three years that there are
     people under the hat of the UN who are spies and CIA people,'' he told
     reporters in Baghdad.

Salah al-Mokhtar, a newly-appointed ambassador said Iraq expects Security Council action on the matter.

     ``The Security Council and UN secretary general are required to act firmly on
     these serious accusations which prove to the world that Iraq's grievances were
     justified,'' he said.