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Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Uribe denounces illegal wiretap

Alvaro Uribe (file pic)
President Uribe says a rogue element inside the secret service is to blame

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has said he did not give any orders to the country's intelligence service to tap phone calls of prominent figures.

Senior officials in the security service, Das, have offered to resign over claims that agents eavesdropped on politicians, judges and journalists.

Mr Uribe blamed the illegal wiretapping on what he called a mafia gang inside the secret service, the Das.

He accused them of damaging Colombian democracy and his government.

Mr Uribe said he had never given a single order during his political career to investigate the private lives of his opponents.

"I never gave a single order to monitor the private life of these people," he said.

"I am a faithful man, who plays fairly with the opposition and does not cheat."

Inquiry set up

A special squad from the attorney general's office has been set up to investigate the wire-tapping allegations, first made in the Colombian magazine Semana.

The magazine said that politicians, judges and reporters who were considered opponents to Mr Uribe were spied on, along with some officials close to the government.

The recordings were beginning to be destroyed in January, according to the magazine.

It is feared that information from the wire taps could have been passed on to criminal elements, drug-traffickers, paramilitaries or Marxist rebels.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott, in Medellin, says the allegations appear now to be accepted as fact.

Das director Felipe Munoz Gomez has already accepted the resignation of deputy director for counter-intelligence Jorge Alberto Lagos, and correspondents say more resignations may follow.

Mr Gomez has said there is no criminal or disciplinary investigation into Mr Lagos and that "for the time being it is an administrative decision".

The Das - Department of Administrative Security - has been at the centre of corruption scandals since Mr Uribe took over in 2002 and there have been calls for it to be disbanded.

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