The agent was a Syrian working for the team of UN inspectors led by Rolf Ekeus, which is in charge of dismantling Iraq's nuclear programme as well as its chemical and biological weapons, says Gen Kamel, who ran Iraq's military industries.
The allegations were made in a dramatic confrontation between Dr Ekeus and Gen Kamel in Amman, shortly after he defected. According to Jordanian security sources, Dr Ekeus and his aides wanted to debrief him but when he met them, Gen Kamel at first refused to speak. He then turned to the translator for the UN team and asked: "Are you a Syrian?" When the man replied that he was, Gen Kamel said: "Is your name Tanous?"
When he confirmed that this was also true, Gen Kamel turned to Dr Ekeus and said: "I refuse to be debriefed in front of one of my own agents."
The revelation by the German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, is likely to be extremely embarrassing to the UN. An Iraqi agent translating for Dr Ekeus's team would be able to tip off the Iraqi government about buildings and sites where the inspectors suspected military equipment or documents relating to the weapons of mass destruction were hidden.
A spokesman for Dr Ekeus said Gen Kamel's allegations were serious, and were being investigated. A Jordanian security source said Boutros Boutros- Ghali, the UN Secretary- General, wants to find out from Gen Kamel if Iraq has other agents within the operation.
The presence of a spy in the heart of the UN inspectorate would explain why Dr Ekeus has found it so difficult to get to the bottom of Iraq's weapons programme. Earlier this month, he said in a report to the UN Security Council that the Iraqi government was still concealing many details of its poison gas programme.
Immediately after the flight of Gen Kamel with his family on 8 August following a row with Uday, President Saddam's son, Iraq blamed the concealment of its weapons programme on the defector. Dr Ekeus was shown large quantities of documents hidden in a chicken farm owned by Gen Kamel on the outskirts of Baghdad. Sources in Amman say, however, that a farm worker told a member of the UN team that the papers had only been placed at the farm by the Iraqi security forces on 11 August.
There are no details of how Iraq succeeded in planting an agent in the UN. It would, however, be in keeping with President Saddam's heavy reliance on informers and spies inside and outside Iraq. It would be surprising if he had not tried to get as much information as possible about Dr Ekeus's intentions, since the UN Security Council will not lift the embargo on Iraq until it is convinced that all its weapons of mass destruction are destroyed.