Annan Believes UNSCOM
Inspectors Spied For US
WASHINGTON - U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has evidence indicating that United Nations weapons inspectors helped collect sensitive Iraqi communications for U.S. efforts to undermine Saddam Hussein's regime, The Washington Post reported in Wednesday's editions.
The Post quoted confidants close to Annan as saying he is convinced that Washington used the eavesdropping operation to penetrate the security apparatus protecting the Iraqi president.
''The secretary general has become aware of the fact that UNSCOM directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate,'' said one Annan adviser not further identified. ''The United Nations cannot be party to an operation to overthrow one of its member states. In the most fundamental way, that is what's wrong with the UNSCOM operation.''
The Boston Globe carried a similar report in Wednesday's editions. It quoted former U.S. weapons inspector Scott Ritter as saying, ''We knew a hell of a lot of information about presidential security.'' But he said if his team found any information related to Hussein's personal safety, ''we would dump it.''
Annan accumulated enough evidence on the eavesdropping, some through intermediaries passing on classified U.S. information, to ask Richard Butler, head of the weapons inspection team, about the reports last month, the Post said.
According to two of the confidants, Butler denied them to Annan. The newspaper quoted some Annan advisers as acknowledging that Annan would like to pressure Butler to resign in favor of a replacement who might win the consent of Iraq and its defenders on the U.N. Security Council.
''A number of member states have assisted UNSCOM in various aspects of its work, and one of those is the United States.'' Butler told the Post Tuesday night. ''But as far as I am concerned I have always been assiduous in insisting that any assistance given to us be strictly related to our disarmament mandate. I have never approved of any assistance to any member state which would serve their unilateral purpose.''
While Annan acknowledges that the eavesdropping operation was meant in part to aid inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction, he also believes UNSCOM enabled the United States to listen in on some of the most sensitive communications of the Baghdad regime, the confidants said.
A Clinton administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post, ''We've already established that Saddam's personal security apparatus and the apparatus that conceals weapons of mass destruction are one and the same.'' Distinguishing between them would be impossible for intelligence-gathering efforts, he added.
The CIA, State Department and White House declined requests for formal comment.