Global Policy Forum

Blix, Butler "Bugged"

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
February 27, 2004

The British or US intelligence services monitored former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's mobile phone whenever he was in Iraq, sources have told the ABC. A key Australian official at the heart of attempts to locate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Richard Butler, has also told the ABC that he was bugged while carrying out delicate international negotiations with the Iraqis.

The revelations come after former British cabinet minister Clare Short said the British intelligence service had spied on United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan as the United States and Britain tried to win UN support for invading Iraq.

Andrew Fowler from the ABC's Investigative Unit says sources have told him that Australia's Office of National Assessments has read transcripts of Dr Blix's phone conversations in Iraq.

"That's what I'm told, specifically each time he entered Iraq his phone was targeted and recorded and the transcripts were then made available to the United States, Australia, Canada, the UK and also New Zealand," Mr Fowler said.

A spokesman for Prime Minister John Howard refused to comment on the claims. Mr Howard's spokesman says the Government does not confirm nor deny matters relating to intelligence.

The Foreign Minister will not say whether Australia had secret intelligence information on United Nations officials before the war in Iraq.

Alexander Downer says no government minister should ever discuss such operational matters.

Mr Downer has launched a blistering attack on Ms Short.

"It just shows what a completely irresponsible woman she is," Mr Downer said. "She is just making a complete fool of herself." Mr Butler says he welcomes Ms Short's comments because it is time the world knew how international diplomacy really works.

He served as Australia's ambassador to the United Nations from 1992 until 1997, before becoming chief weapons inspector, a job he held until 1999. He is now Governor of Tasmania.


"I was well aware [of being bugged]," Mr Butler told ABC Radio's The World Today. "Those who did it would come to me and show me the recordings that they'd made on others to try to help me do my job in disarming Iraq. They would say 'we're just here to help you' and they'd never show me any recordings that they'd made of me.

"I knew it from other sources. I was utterly confident that I was bugged by at least four permanent members of the Security Council. I don't know what the Chinese were doing. "I was utterly confident that in my attempts to have private diplomatic conversations trying to solve the problem of the disarmament of Iraq that I was being listened to by the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians.

"They also had people on my staff who were reporting what I was trying to do privately." Mr Butler says that if Mr Annan was bugged, it would be illegal.

"There is a headquarters agreement with the United Nations that says that those places, those premises, those persons will be inviolable," he said.

"It's not true to say that this activity if it occurred was within the law."


He says he believes the activity could be "very damaging".

"What if Kofi Annan had been bringing people together last February in a genuine attempt to prevent the invasion of Iraq ... and one of these people bugging him didn't want that to happen, what do you think they would do with that information?" he said. Mr Butler says he had tactics to get around being bugged when he was with the UN. "I'd take a walk in the park - it's just ludicrous but true," he said.

"If I really truly wanted to have a sensitive conversation with somebody where I was asking them to be honest with me ... I was reduced to having to go either to a noisy cafeteria in the basement of the UN where there was so much noise around, and then whisper in the hope that we wouldn't be overheard.

"Or I'd literally take a walk in Central Park. I'd take a walk with a person in a park and speak in a low voice and keep moving so that we could avoid directional microphones and maybe, maybe just have a private conversation."

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