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Unscom head may quit over spy crisis

(There are several articles about this in today's Independent & Guardian)

The Independent, 8th Jan 1999

Unscom head may quit over spy crisis

By David Usborne, in New York 

Richard Butler, the chairman of Unscom, the
United Nations body responsible for ridding Iraq
of its weapons of mass destruction, signalled
yesterday that he may be preparing to step down
later this year as fresh allegations surfaced about
the covert manipulation of his inspectors by
United States intelligence agencies. 

As the crisis surrounding the fate of Unscom
continued to deepen at UN headquarters, new
aerial skirmishes were reported in the northern
no-fly zone over Iraq. The Pentagon said a US
warplane fired on an Iraqi anti-aircraft radar site
early yesterday morning. There were no

The incident was the fourth over Iraq in 10 days
and came as Baghdad continued to stoke tensions
by refusing to recognise the no-fly zones and
vowing to shoot down patrolling jets. 

On Wednesday, Mr Butler rejected claims that
information gathered by his inspectors had been
conveyed to the US. Additional evidence
surfaced yesterday, however, to suggest that
Unscom, wittingly or otherwise, had indeed been
the source of a flow of intelligence to Washington
and in particular to the secretive National Security
Agency (NSA). 

Media reports from Washington cited unnamed
US officials suggesting that the country had used
intelligence gleaned as part of Unscom's
operations to help in the planning of the joint
American and British bombing campaign last
month. Some US reports indicate that British and
Israeli intelligence analysts also have access to the
Unscom data. 

One report, in The New York Times, said the US
had deliberately placed spies under cover inside
Unscom to penetrate Iraq's security apparatus. 

The revelations, if true, could have significant
diplomatic consequences at a time when the UN
Security Council is struggling to overcome deep
divisions, which opened immediately after the
December bombardment. In particular, they
threaten to poison already delicate relations
between Washington and Kofi Annan, the UN

"If these allegations were true it would be
damaging to the UN's disarmament effort
worldwide," Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for
Mr Annan, said yesterday. "The reports in today's
papers tend to lend more credence to these
allegations." He said the Secretary-General was in
contact with Madeleine Albright, the US
Secretary of State, about the claims. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that an
eavesdropping device supplied by the US to
Unscom to help it to crack President Saddam
Hussein's communications was set up to beam
what it heard directly to the NSA in Maryland via
satellite. While some of what the NSA learnt was
given back to Unscom, other details were used to
identify targets in December's attacks, the paper

In a searing editorial, meanwhile, The Washington
Post accused Mr Annan and his advisers of
leaking the allegations about the compromising of
Unscom in an attempt to undermine Mr Butler
and Unscom. 

In a first indication that he may be tiring of the
attacks on Unscom and on himself, Mr Butler told
The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that he
was contemplating leaving his post on 30 June
when his current contract expires. With both
Russia and China calling for his resignation,
however, it is questionable whether he will be
able to hang on even until then. 

Iraq has long alleged that Unscom was a cover
for US espionage and yesterday reacted with glee
to the latest allegations. "We have under the hat of
the United Nations, spies and CIA people,"
Humam Abdul-Khaleq, the Minister of Culture
and Information, declared 

The revelations are also certain to embarrass
those Arab governments, most notably Egypt,
that have stood by Washington and London in the
wake of the air strikes. 

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