Short to get formal warning over spy claim

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Clare Short, the former international development secretary, is to receive a formal written warning over her claim that Britain spied on the United Nations, the Labour Party said last night

Clare Short, the former international development secretary, is to receive a formal written warning over her claim that Britain spied on the United Nations, the Labour Party said last night. But she will not have the party whip withdrawn because Tony Blair and other senior party figures do not want to make her into a martyr.

The move came as Mr Blair faced fresh criticism of his justification for the war in Iraq. Two senior supporters of the invasion declared that he was wrong to base his case on weapons of mass destruction.

Clive Soley, a former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and Ann Clwyd, Mr Blair's human rights envoy to Iraq, said he should have made the case for regime change.

Ms Short claimed last month that British intelligence had supplied her with transcripts of private conversations involving Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general. Mr Blair refused to confirm or deny her claim but Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary, wrote to warn her that she faced possible prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Some MPs called for Ms Shortto be expelled from the Privy Council, have the whip withdrawn or be deselected by her local party.

Labour's Parliamentary Committee, chaired by Mr Blair, revealed last night that it had decided her mutinous behaviour could not go unmarked. Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip, will write to Ms Short to remind her of her "responsibilities", a party spokesman said.

Ian McCartney, the party chairman, recently publicly rebuked Ms Short for a "significant error of judgement". Her continuing criticism of the Government over the Iraq war was a mistake, he said.

In a Fabian Society pamphlet published yesterday, Ms Clwyd and Mr Soley called for changes to international law to allow military force to be used to remove from power "psychopathic killers" such as Saddam Hussein. The MPs warned that Mr Blair had "boxed himself in" by relying on fears about Saddam's arsenal to justify war.

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