Kofi Annan was bugged by UK secret services, claims Short

Former Cabinet minister Clare Short, who quit government last year over her opposition to the war in Iraq, has claimed that Britain's secret services spied on the UN Secretary General in the run up to war.

Ms Short, the former International Development Secretary, told the BBC's Today programme that she had seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations.

She is reported as saying: "Indeed, I have had conversations with Kofi in the run up to war thinking 'Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying'."

When pressed as to whether she believed the eavesdropping was legal, she said: "I don’t know, I presume so. It is odd, but I don’t know about the legalities."

At his monthly press conference to reporters this morning, Prime Minister Tony Blair said that he never commented on the work of the intelligence services, but described Ms Short's comments as "totally irresponsible".

Ms Short made her claims after a GCHQ whistleblower walked free from the Old Bailey yesterday.

Katherine Gun, who worked as a translator inside Britain's top secret communications centre in Cheltenham, leaked an email request from the US National Security Agency last year calling for British assistance in bugging UN delegations in the run up to a crucial Security Council vote.

It is not clear whether UK security services acceded to the request but Downing Street has said that the security services would not have acted illegally.

The 29-year-old intelligence officer had been charged under the Official Secrets Act with disclosing secret government information. However, the Crown Prosecution Service failed to present any evidence against her.

The human rights group, Liberty, who acted on Mrs Gun's behalf at the trial, said that she made the disclosure because she believed it was necessary in order to "prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi citizens and British and American soldiers would die or be maimed. She did what she thought was right".


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