British spies were bugging UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's office in
the run up to the Iraq war, former UK cabinet minister Clare Short has
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
The ex-international development secretary said she had read some of
the transcripts of his conversations.
Ms Short said she recalled thinking, as she talked to Mr Annan:
"Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what
he and I are saying."
Downing Street has refused to comment on the claims, made in a BBC
Spies there 'for some time'
Her comments came the day after the dramatic collapse of the trial of
GCHQ whistle-blower Katharine Gun.
She had been accused of leaking a secret e-mail from US spies
apparently requesting British help in bugging UN delegates head of the
During an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Ms Short said
British spies were involved in bugging Mr Annan's office in the run up to
war with Iraq.
"The UK in this time was also getting spies on Kofi Annan's office
and getting reports from him about what was going on," she said.
"These things are done and in the case of Kofi's office, it was
being done for some time."
Asked if Britain was involved in this, she replied; "Well I know -
I've seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations.
"In fact, I have had conversations with Kofi in the run up to the
war thinking 'oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will
see what he and I are saying'."
Asked to confirm if British spies were instructed to carry out
operations within the UN on people like Mr Annan, she said: "Yes,
Quizzed about whether she knew about this when she was in government,
Ms Short responded: "Absolutely. I read some of the transcripts of
the accounts of his conversations."
Pressed about whether this was legal, she said: "I don't know. I
presume so. It is odd but I don't know about the legalities."
A Downing Street spokesman said in a statement: "We never comment
on intelligence matters. Our intelligence and security agencies act in
accordance with national and international law at all times."
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said that many UN officials
always worked on the basis that they were being bugged.
But, he added, "that is not to say that it is acceptable if they are
not suspected of terrorism or other crimes".
Clare Short has been a thorn in the government's side since
Hassen Fodha, the UN director in Brussels, said: "The UN works in
full transparency. There is no need to spy or to go through secret
"Our information is public and under our rules no other
information than is public should be used in our reports."
Tory shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram was cautious about
reacting to Ms Short's remarks, saying: "I think she should be asked
why she's saying this now. I don't know what the truth of this is."
But Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs
spokesman, said: "If these allegations are true, they will do nothing
for Britain's already tarnished reputation at the UN."
Donald Anderson, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee,
said "even talking about what passed over" Ms Short's desk
"is wholly wrong in principle".
Defence expert Col Mike Dewar agreed, saying she should not be talking
about such sensitive matters because they could compromise intelligence
Earlier, Ms Short said enormous pressure was being brought to bear on
countries that were not supportive of the Iraq war.
She said Baroness Amos, who was a spokeswoman on international
development, had gone round Africa, with people from the British
intelligence services "trying to press them".
"I had to make sure that we didn't promise them misuse of aid in a
way that would be illegal," said Ms Short, who was Lady Amos's boss
at the time.
The prime minister's monthly media briefing on Thursday is expected to
be dominated by Ms Short's revelations and the dropping of the case
against the ex-intelligence officer Katharine Gun.
The government has denied claims the move to drop the case was
There has been speculation ministers were worried about the disclosure
of secret documents during the trial, particularly the advice from
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith about the legality of war.