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Police probe hacking by UK tabloid

BRITAIN'S most senior policeman yesterday ordered an inquiry into reports that journalists at Rupert Murdoch's bestselling British newspaper conspired to hack into the phones of celebrities, legislators and public figures.

London police chief Paul Stephenson said a senior officer will investigate allegations in the Guardian newspaper that News of the World reporters worked with private investigators to access "two or three thousand" private mobile phones.

The publisher of the News of the World, Sun and Times newspapers has made no comment.

Former British deputy prime minister John Prescott, US actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Australian model Elle Macpherson were among those targeted by reporters seeking exclusive stories for the tabloid, the report said.

"These are serious allegations ... the Metropolitan Police will examine them," Home Office Minister David Hanson told parliament.

The inquiry is being led by London's Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who investigated the so-called "cash for honors" scandal that overshadowed the end of Tony Blair's premiership.

The Guardian said private investigators working for the News of the World intercepted voicemail messages and gained access to personal data such as itemized phone bills and bank statements.

Ruling Labour Party politicians called for an inquiry into the role of the police, Murdoch's newspapers and the opposition Conservative Party, which hired former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as its communications chief in May 2007.

Coulson resigned as the paper's editor after royal reporter Clive Goodman was jailed for hacking into the phones of members of the royal family's household.


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