UNITED NATIONS, March 4: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry on Thursday in search of an explanation of alleged British bugging of his office, but both men were mum after their talk.
"The secretary-general asked to see the ambassador ... and that meeting has now taken place," said UN chief spokesman Fred Eckhard, adding he would have nothing more to say on what happened.
Jones Parry also declined comment after the meeting. Mr Eckhard said Kofi Annan was waiting for a fuller explanation of charges that British intelligence spied on him before the invasion of Iraq last year.
Clare Short, Britain's former international development secretary, said last week that British agents had spied on the UN leader. Officials of the world body said the bugging, if true, violated international law and should immediately be stopped.
Jones Parry had telephoned Mr Annan, on behalf of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, immediately after the bugging allegations became public. But diplomatic sources said their initial conversation had not directly addressed the bugging issue.
The world body was clearly stunned by Ms Short's claims as she was a high-ranking official when the alleged bugging took place. She resigned from the government after the invasion.
Clare Short told BBC radio she had read some of the transcripts of the bugging of Mr Annan's office, on the 38th floor of the UN complex in Manhattan facing the East River. "In the case of Kofi's office, it was being done for some time," she said.
A British translator earlier leaked a top-secret US document to the media seeking London's help in bugging UN Security Council members in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.
SHORT BLASTS BLAIR: Former British minister Clare Short accused Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday of making political mistakes over Iraq and failing to prepare for the aftermath of occupation.
"The deceit on the road to war and the deliberate marginalization of the UN led to an unforgivable failure to prepare for the aftermath of the inevitable speedy victory," said Ms Short.
"The significant mistakes in Iraq were political - not intelligence mistakes," she wrote, arguing the US set a date for invasion with which Britain went along.
The prime minister's trust ratings have plunged since the occupation of Iraq and he has failed to shift the political debate to vital domestic issues before elections expected next year.
Mr Blair was cleared of exaggerating the intelligence used as a basis for the invasion by an independent inquiry in January, but related issues continue to surface.
Campaign group Greenpeace said it was seeking to legally force the British government's top lawyer to appear as a witness next week at the trial of 14 opponents of the invasion.
Opponents accuse the attorney general of swallowing his doubts to give the government legal cover after it failed to gain UN backing for a second resolution authorising the invasion.
Critics want his full advice published, a move the government has flatly rejected. Ms Short said while it was clear Iraq had obstructed and deceived UN inspectors, "the general view was that we needed to deal with Iraq, but there was no immediate danger".
A wave of bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala killing at least 171 people earlier this week has highlighted the difficulties in rebuilding the country and restoring peace. But Mr Blair, speaking after a meeting in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, said the recent surge in violence in Iraq did not constitute civil war. -Reuters