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Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 22:20 GMT

World: Middle East

US silence on new Iraq spying allegations

The United States government has refused to comment on new press reports, alleging that United Nations weapons inspectors helped it collect vital information ahead of last month's air-strikes against Iraq.

Two prestigious American dailies, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, reported on Thursday that US intelligence agents were included in the UN inspection teams.

They also said the UNSCOM inspectors had given the American National Security Agency a direct feed of conversations between Iraqi security agencies.

The head of UNSCOM, Richard Butler, and the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, have already rejected less-specific spying allegations that appeared in two other US newspapers on Wednesday.

Iraq says the reports vindicate its charge that UNSCOM is working with the US to undermine President Saddam Hussein.

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