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Sunday, 9 August, 1998, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Gaddafi death plot claims 'pure fantasy' - Cook
David Shayler
David Shayler: Fighting extradition in a Paris jail
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook says claims that the UK's Secret Intelligence Service plotted to kill the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, are "pure fantasy".

He told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost he was satisfied his predecessor, Tory Sir Malcolm Rifkind, had not authorised an assassination attempt, nor was there anything to suggest that MI6 had become involved in such an "escapade".

He said: "I have pursued these allegations and I am absolutely satisfied that the previous Foreign Secretary did not authorise any such assassination attempt.

"I am also satisfied that SIS never put forward any proposals for such an attempt.

Robin Cook: No basis for an inquiry
"Nor have I seen anything that would suggest that SIS had any interest or role of any such escapade."

He also said he saw "no basis" for an investigation by Parliament's all-party Intelligence and Security Committee following demands by Labour MP Tam Dalyell.

"There was no government-inspired plan to assassinate Gaddafi," he said.

"There was no SIS proposal to do it, and I'm fairly clear there has never been any SIS involvement."

Former MI5 offiicer David Shayler is currently under arrest in Paris and facing extradition to Britain for breaking the Official Secrets Act by speaking about an alleged plot by SIS to kill Colonel Gaddafi in 1996.

Mr Shayler said an officer of the intelligence service MI6 told him of a plot.

John Wadham, Mr Shayler's lawyer seized on Mr Cook's apparent uncertainty.

"I notice that Robin Cook only said he was `fairly' sure that MI6 was not involved in the Gaddafi affair," he said.

Mr Shayler's girlfriend Annie Machon, herself a former MI5 officer, insisted he had good sources.

She said: "He headed up the Libyan section in MI5 for over two years so he was very well informed about all matters relating to Libya.

"He was also managed to develop a particularly good working relationship with his opposite number in MI6 and I gather that is how he managed to find out the detail of the plot to kill Gaddafi."

Colonel Gaddafi: Government denies assassination plot
Mr Cook added that he was determined that the claims should not jeopardise moves to bring to trial two Libyan men accused of the Lockerbie airline bombing, which killed nearly 300 people in 1988.

An announcement is imminent over whether, after years of negotiations, Libya will hand over the suspects for trial in a neutral country.

He said: "It was an act of mass murder and I have always made it clear that we will explore any reasonable and realistic option to enable a trial to take place."

The BBC broadcast an interview with Mr Shayler on Friday.

He said on the Panorama programme: "We are talking about tens of thousand pounds of tax-payers' money being used to attempt to assassinate a foreign head of state."

He said he was told that authorisation for the plot by the SIS had come from the very top of the Foreign Office.

Mr Shayler said he was not worried about the effect his allegations would have on the case because having seen the intelligence reports he said there was no chance of the two being handed over.

He hit the headlines last year when he claimed MI5 held thousands of files on people, including Labour ministers it once considered potentially subversive.

He fled to France after claiming the service bungled a number of operations and a Government injunction barred newspapers from printing fresh allegations.

BBC News
Robin Cook: No government plan to kill Gaddafi
BBC News
David Shayler explains his actions to the BBC's Panorama programme
BBC News
BBC social affairs correspondent Carole Walker: This is not going to overturn the government
BBC News
BBC's Daniel Boettcher reports on the Shayler case
See also:

02 Aug 98 | UK
Former MI5 agent arrested
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