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Blair Refuses Comment on Charges of British Spying in Moscow


In his first monthly news conference of the year, Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to discuss allegations of spying in Moscow made by Russian television and Russian state security officials.

If the allegations of British diplomatic involvement in a Moscow spy ring are true, British leader Tony Blair refused to definitively say so in his news conference. Instead, he tried to make light of the allegations that four officials from the British embassy and one Russian citizen may have downloaded data from a transmitter hidden in a fake rock to hand-held computers.

"I only saw myself on tele-text [British televised electronic print information service] this morning the business about Russia, and I am afraid that you are going to get the old stock-in-trade of never commenting on security matters, except where we want to, obviously," he said. "But no, seriously, the less said about that one the better."

On another subject, the U.S. rendition prisoner transfer program came up again at the news conference. Mr. Blair was asked if he could shed any new light on what his government may or may not know about it and its legality under British law.

"I may be able to offer you neither heat nor light. I mean, all I have said about it is that I know America has this practice. We do not," he said. "But as far as I am aware, the Americans do not operate this except in circumstances where the law of the country concerned and the consent of the country concerned are compatible with what they are doing. But I do not know any more about it than that."

The British leader also was asked about the now official parliamentary election results in Iraq. He said he hoped it will help to bring the people together there rather than divide them.

"I think there is an overwhelming desire in Iraq, from the information I have, for there to be a unity government, not a sectarian government and that is the key," he said. "And that is what we want. That is what the majority of Iraqis want."

Tony Blair also hopes the outcome will be a government as broadly-based as possible. He also characterized the Iraqi insurgents' fight as one pitted against democracy.

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