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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 00:18 GMT
Shayler: Cook 'misled' over Gaddafi plot
Colonel Gaddafi: MI6 involvement alleged in plot
Former M15 agent David Shayler has said the UK foreign secretary may have been misled over whether British secret services were involved in a plot to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Muhammar Gaddafi.

Robin Cook has denied misleading the public following the publication of a document on the internet alleging British involvement.

He said he was "satisfied" that the intelligence services had no involvement in an "escapade" to kill the Colonel.

Mr Cook also denied two years ago that British security services had been involved in a bombing which narrowly failed to kill Colonel Gaddafi and overthrow his regime.

David Shayler: Escaped extradition
Speaking on BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Shayler said that it was possible that the foreign secretary had not been given the truth.

He said the document vindicated his allegations and warranted a full investigation into others made by him.

"It is established that there was certainly a Gaddafi plot, so when Robin Cook unequivocally said I'm perfectly clear these allegations are foundless and it is pure fantasy - he went too far.

"I accept that in normal circumstances, people would be more inclined to believe a government minister than a whistleblower.

"But now we have shown that the government has certainly compromised the truth if not outrightly lied about this, then I'm vindicated and I think we have to have a full inquiry now."

The claims will be studied by Parliament's Security and Intelligence Committee, the committee's chairman, Tom King, said.

However he pointed out that the document, if genuine, only showed that British agents knew about a plot and did not show they were involved in it.

Mr Cook's denial two years ago came after the government sought Mr Shayler's extradition from France.

MI6: Named in website document
Mr Shayler had alleged that British intelligence paid about 100,000 towards jeeps and weapons for the assassination. The extradition attempt failed but Mr Shayler is effectively exiled to France.

The document published on the internet and marked "UK eyes alpha" alleges that MI6 had been told of the plot two months before it was said to have taken place in February 1996.

But Mr Cook told the BBC: "I accept absolutely nothing in the way of having misled the British public.

"What I said two years ago was that I was absolutely satisfied that the previous foreign secretary did not authorise an assassination attempt, that the SIS (secret intelligence services) never put forward such a proposal and in my time in office I have never seen any evidence that the SIS had any interest in such escapades.

"There is absolutely nothing in this supposed intelligence document which would suggest otherwise.

"Indeed this document ends with the contact telling the SIS that the other plotters are unhappy about him even telling SIS, which rather proves that SIS were not manipulating this coup attempt."

Mr Cook refused to confirm whether the document was genuine or a forgery.

But despite this, Rear admiral Nick Wilkinson, secretary of the D notice committee which operates an agreed self-censorship system with the media on matters of national security, asked journalists not to publish the document's website address.

Top secret report

According to the document, coded CX95/53452 and published on a Yahoo internet site, at least 250 British-made weapons were distributed to the plotters.

The document detailed how an uprising was planned for the capital Tripoli and plotters would use vehicles similar to those in the colonel's security service.

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude said that the documents raised "serious questions" over Mr Cook's previous comments and demanded an immediate inquiry.

And the Liberal Democrat's foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "Knowing that there were plots against Gaddafi is one thing, but being involved in them is something entirely different."

The Libyan government has summoned Britain's ambassador to ask to take part in any investigations over the plot.

Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner
"The Libyans say the supposed leaked memo is supported by hard evidence"
See also:

06 Aug 98 | UK
Plot to kill Gaddafi denied
18 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Exiled MI5 man 'ready to face trial'
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