GENERALLY speaking, the American media pay scant attention to British domestic politics - unless there is a juicy scandal of some sort, that is. So it is worth noting that the first leading article in The New York Times yesterday was entitled Tony Blair's Iraq Hangover. Noting that the months before the Iraq war began had been a “heady time” for Mr Blair as “a rising world statesman”, the article went on to compare his current condition: “With no unconventional weapons yet found in Iraq and Mr Blair's original rationale for war in tatters, the behind-the-scenes details of his performance are being endlessly rehashed in Britain, often to Mr Blair's pained embarrassment.” The cause of the newspaper's interest was, of course, the accusations made by Clare Short of Britain's involvement in monitoring UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's communications. If these were to prove true, said the leading article, “they will further damage Mr Blair's fading reputation at home and abroad.” In the immediate aftermath of Ms Short's allegation, any number of prominent people with experience of the UN were to be heard saying, in effect, “Everyone knows this kind of thing goes on”; Richard Butler, a former head of UN weapons inspection, said that if he wanted to talk in confidence with someone he took them for a walk in New York's Central Park. Perhaps it can be accepted that nations spy on each other but it should be unthinkable that anyone spies on the United Nations, least of all on its Secretary General. To imply that Kofi Annan, of all people, is not totally neutral and trustworthy is unacceptable. If his communications have been monitored in any way his integrity will have been impugned and those responsible should apologise immediately.