`British agents spied on Annan'

LONDON, FEB. 26. In a surprising revelation, the former International Development Secretary, Clare Short, today said British agents had spied on the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in the run-up to the Iraqi war.

``The U.K. in this time was also spying on Kofi Annan's office and getting reports from him about what was going on,'' Ms. Short, who resigned from Tony Blair's Cabinet protesting Britain's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

She was being interviewed about yesterday's decision to drop legal proceedings under the Official Secrets Act against Katharine Gun, a former translator with the spy centre who leaked a confidential memo raising concerns about spying in the United Nations.

When asked whether British spies had been instructed to carry out operations within the United Nations on people such as Mr. Annan, she said: ``Yes, absolutely.

I know, I have seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations. Indeed, I have had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to war thinking, `Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying'.''

Downing Street refused to comment on the allegation, but insisted that Britain's intelligence services always act within the law.

A spokesman said: ``We never comment on intelligence matters. Our intelligence and security agencies act in accordance with national and international law at all times.''