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Wednesday, January 6, 1999 Published at 23:48 GMT


Annan: 'No evidence of spy claims'

Relations between Unscom and Iraq have often been stretched

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he has no evidence that UN weapons inspectors in Iraq helped the US collect intelligence.


Baghdad Correspondent Caroline Wyatt: "Allegations could end Unscom"
Two American newspapers, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, reported that Unscom, the team charged with ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, had given the Americans access to Iraqi security information.

The reports said that Mr Annan had evidence of a systematic operation in which American agents were able to listen to secret communications between the Iraqi security bodies responsible for protecting President Saddam Hussein.

The stories sparked a diplomatic storm and lent credence to Iraqi claims that UN weapons inspectors were US spies.


Fred Eckhard: "The issue is not Richard Butler, the issue is disamament"
Mr Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said: "We not only have no convincing evidence of these allegations, we have no evidence of any kind. We have only rumours.

"Neither the secretary-general nor any member of his staff has access to classified US intelligence, although Unscom does.

"Obviously, were these charges true, it would be damaging to the United Nations disarmament work in Iraq and elsewhere."

He added: "Our credibility rests on our ability to maintain integrity, impartiality and professionalism in our work. Any deviation from that is damaging to the United Nations."

Richard Butler, the chief weapons inspector, and the US State Department, also denied the newspaper allegations.


[ image:  ]
Mr Butler admitted that Unscom had received help from US, and 40 other countries.

But he said the international assistance was to demolish a "wall of resistance" erected by Iraq to thwart arms searches.

He said: "We have never accepted or used any of that assistance for any other than to bring about the disarmament of Iraq."

State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "At no time did the US work with anyone at Unscom to collect information for the purpose of undermining the Iraqi regime."

The BBC's Baghdad Correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, says if the newspaper reports are true, they will be a vindication of what Iraq says it has known for some time. She says it is likely to kill off any chances of Unscom returning to Baghdad in its current form.


Nara Al-Sadoun: "It's the whole process"
Iraqi officials have frequently accused Unscom of acting as an intelligence agency on behalf of the US and Israel, a charge denied by the UN. It has also complained about the dominance of US and British officials on the inspection teams.

One Iraqi Government official, Nasra Al-Sadoun, said: "They are spies for the CIA and Mossad [the Israeli secret service] so why should Iraq accept their return."

Russia, who was against the December airstrikes on Iraq, repeated its call for Mr Butler to resign.



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