G8 hosts deny 'eavesdropping' claims

Organisers today denied a claim that the current G8 president Silvio Berlusconi had arranged for secret eavesdropping on the summit discussions.

Organisers today denied a claim that the current G8 president Silvio Berlusconi had arranged for secret eavesdropping on the summit discussions.

Elaborate arrangements are normally put in place at the annual talks to ensure confidentiality, with no recordings or notes taken of leaders’ conversations and no contact allowed with aides outside the room except by a digital pen, which can transmit scribbled notes electronically.

Leaders are accompanied by only one aide – known as the “sherpa” for the work they do to prepare the way for the summit – while others outside the closed room can observe discussions only by a silent video link, on which mouths are digitally blurred to prevent lip-reading.

But the Financial Times today quoted a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that the convention had been breached by this year’s Italian hosts.

The paper reported that Italian aides listened to yesterday’s proceedings through headphones from nearby rooms, in order to be able to advise Mr Berlusconi, via his sherpa, on how to handle the talks in his role as chairman.

A spokesman for the Italian premier denied anyone had been listening in to the leaders’ discussions

He said: “What they say remains in the room. There is no channel of communication between the leaders and the outside, except for the digital pens.

“There will not be any sort of secret channel between the president of the G8 different from the others.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was unaware of any eavesdropping, telling reporters: “I know nothing about this. What I do know is that Prime Minister Berlusconi has been a good chairman of these meetings.”

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