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If Britain U.S. Bugged UN "Practice Must Stop"

If reports that UN was bugged prove true practice must stop - spokesman

Reacting to today's media reports alleging that Secretary-General Kofi Annan's phone conversations were tapped by British intelligence, a United Nations spokesman said if this practice exists it should stop.

"We would be disappointed if this were true," Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York. "Such activities would undermine the integrity and confidential nature of diplomatic exchanges."

"Those who speak to the Secretary-General are entitled to assume that their exchanges are confidential," he emphasized.

Mr. Eckhard added that the UN would step up its routine technical measures aimed at guarding against such invasions of privacy.

Asked whether the practice of bugging the Secretary-General was regarded as illegal, the spokesman replied affirmatively, citing in the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN, the 1947 "Headquarters Agreement" between the UN and the United States, and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In particular, he referred to Article 2 of the 1946 treaty, which states that, "The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action."

Mr. Eckhard noted that the UN could take steps - such as using secure phone and faxes lines - to secure the confidentiality of communications. "I don't know that anyone has protection against satellite intercepts, but although this 1946 Convention was written more than 50 years ago, clearly it would apply to all forms of interference, including thins that weren't even imagined then, namely satellite intercepts."

The spokesman also confirmed that the British Ambassador to the UN, who is currently in London, called the Secretary-General this morning on behalf of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"These premises are inviolable under international law, and we expect all Member States to respect their commitment," Mr. Eckhard emphasized. "We're throwing down a red flag and saying, 'If this is true, please stop it.'"

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