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Posted Friday, January 8, 1999


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Wednesday, January 6, 1999; 6:07 p.m. EST

Annan Says UN Unaware of "Spying"

By Nicole Winfield Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday he was unaware of a reported effort by U.N. weapons inspectors to help Washington eavesdrop on Iraqi military communications -- but acknowledged that such cooperation could seriously harm U.N. disarmament work around the world.

The reports, if confirmed, would bolster Iraqi claims that the inspectors worked for the benefit of U.S. intelligence agencies and would raise anew doubts about the fate of the top inspector, Richard Butler, in the aftermath of the U.S. and British airstrikes against Iraq.

Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, said the reports in The Boston Globe and The Washington Post supported his country's claims and put into question the whole history of U.N. weapons inspections and Iraq's cooperation with them.

"If this has been established now as a fact, then the whole issue of Iraq's compliance would have to be dealt with differently," Hamdoon said, calling the reports the "nail in the coffin" for the U.N. inspections program.

Iraq has long called for Butler's resignation, accusing the Australian diplomat of being a puppet for Washington's efforts to maintain 8-year-old sanctions on Iraq indefinitely under the guise of weapons inspections.

On Wednesday, Butler and Annan both brushed aside suggestions that Butler should resign as head of the U.N. Special Commission -- known as UNSCOM -- and disputed the newspaper articles.

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter has said that U.N. inspectors shared information with Israel and the United States to try to penetrate Iraq's efforts to conceal its weapons. But Wednesday's reports went further, and said Annan knew of the effort to help Washington undermine another U.N.

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