Mexico's Former UN Envoy Says


By Mark Stevenson

Associated Press
February 12, 2004

Mexico's former ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday it was common knowledge the United States had spied on U.N. delegations in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser spoke a day after Mexico acknowledged it sent a letter in December asking the United States and Britain to explain recent accusations of spying on United Nations delegations. Aguilar Zinser was recalled as Mexico's U.N. ambassador in November for saying the United States treated its southern neighbor like its "backyard." But he was at the United Nations when the alleged spying would have taken place.

Aguilar Zinzer told The Associated Press that Washington had violated international law and Mexico should seek an explanation from the U.S. State Department and file a formal complaint with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "It was very obvious to the countries involved in the discussion on Iraq that we were being observed and that our communications were probably being tapped," Aguilar Zinser said. "The information was being gathered to benefit the United States."

British and U.S. officials have declined to comment. "We don't comment on allegations concerning intelligence matters," State Department spokeswoman Brenda Greenberg said Thursday night. On Tuesday, Chile claimed its U.N. mission telephones were tapped as the Security Council considered a resolution backed by Washington, Britain and Spain authorizing war against Saddam Hussein.

A Chilean government spokesman refused to say who was suspected of tapping the telephones but said government officials "expressed our concern to the respective institutions." A London newspaper reported Saturday that British intelligence acted on a U.S. request for help in eavesdropping on U.N. delegates' home and office telephones before the war.

The Observer said the American request was contained in a National Security Agency memo leaked to the newspaper last year. The paper reported last year that the NSA had begun a "surge" of extra eavesdropping on officials from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan, all key Security Council members at the time.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said in a statement issued late Wednesday that it sent a letter to Washington and London seeking an answer to the accusations. The department said it expressed "concern about the alleged espionage case, which, if real, would affect the confidence that should exist between nations."

Mexico's U.N. ambassador, Enrique Berruga, said Tuesday that the government had not confirmed that it was spied on. But Aguilar Zinser, Berruga's predecessor, said the spying was obvious and demanded his government file a complaint "because we need to uphold international law."

"They are violating the U.N. headquarters covenant," he said. He described a meeting of six nations to work out a compromise Iraq resolution in early March. "Only the people in that room knew what that document said," he said. "Early the next morning, I received a call from a U.S. diplomat saying the United States found that text totally unacceptable."

Chile and Mexico, both members of the U.N. Security Council, initially wavered on supporting the war but eventually opposed the resolution. A former translator at Britain's communications headquarters, Katharine Gun, has acknowledged leaking the NSA memo to The Observer and has been charged with breaking state secrecy laws. Gun said the disclosure was justified because it "exposed serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. government."

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