Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 03:53 GMT
Iraq applauds spy claims
Relations between Unscom and Iraq have often been stretched
Iraq says its statements that the United Nations inspection teams in Iraq were engaged in espionage have been vindicated by the latest reports in the American media.
The Iraqi ambassador the UN, Nizar Hamdoon, said the reports were a victory for the truth.
Mr Hamdoom made the remarks despite a statement by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan that he had no evidence that Unscom, the UN team charged with ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, had allowed American agents to monitor President Saddam Hussein's movements.
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.
"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.
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."
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.