- 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
- ''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.