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UN:  Spying on Annan Would Be Violation of International Law - 2004-02-26

A U.N. spokesman says any bugging of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's phones, if it happened, would be a violation of international law. Spokesman Fred Eckhard says the secretary-general was disappointed to hear allegations that British intelligence had spied on him.

"Such activity would undermine the integrity and confidential nature of diplomatic exchanges," he said. "Those who speak to the secretary-general are entitled to assume their exchanges are confidential."

Mr. Eckhard's comments came after former British Cabinet member Clare Short said intelligence agents listened in on Secretary-General Annan's phone conversations in the days before the war in Iraq. Ms. Short made the allegation in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation.

U.N. spokesman Eckhard said, if true, such activities would constitute violations of at least three international conventions, and would compromise the secretary-general's effectiveness as an international diplomat.

"We're reaffirming the principle that these premises are inviolable under international law, and we expect all member states to respect their commitments under this legal instrument," he said.

Mr. Eckhard emphasized that U.N. security personnel do not know when or if the secretary-general's phone has been bugged. He said efforts to detect spying had been intensified, but would not specify what that might mean.

He told reporters "We're throwing down a red flag, and saying, if this is true, please stop it."