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France demands details of alleged U.S. spying as Germany voices anger

France on Wednesday demanded U.S. intelligence services cooperate with the French side in probe into alleged U.S. spying behaviors, as Germany voiced anger over alleged U.S. spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel.

French President Francois Hollande hoped that "a bilateral cooperation could be carried out between French and American intelligence services in order to figure out more clearly" the alleged spying practices of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), French government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told a press conference, saying the proposal "was accepted by (U.S.) President Barack Obama."

French newspaper Le Monde reported on Monday that the NSA had secretly monitored 70.3 million phone communications in France from Dec. 10, 2012 to Jan. 8 this year.

During a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reiterated France's request for an explanation regarding the "unacceptable" spying practices.

On Wednesday, Berlin voiced its anger at possible U.S. spying on Chancellor Merkel's mobile phone communications, saying it would be "a serious breach of trust" if confirmed.

In an unusual sharply-worded statement, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Merkel called Obama on Wednesday after receiving information about the alleged spying.

"She made it clear that she unequivocally disapproves such practices should they be confirmed and deems them as completely unacceptable," the statement said.

"Among close friends and partners as Germany and the U.S. have been for decades, there should be no such monitoring of communications of a head of government," Seibert said, adding that "this would be a serious breach of trust."

Merkel has also called on Washington to clarify the extent of possible surveillance activities in Germany and to give answers to "questions that the German government asked months ago," Seibert said.

The White House has immediately denied that the U.S. tapped Merkel's phone calls.

"The United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges," said the White House, adding that the U.S. is reviewing its intelligence-gathering to ensure a balance of security and privacy.

Citing classified documents disclosed by fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, German magazine Der Spiegel reported in June that Germany is high on the list of telephone communication and internet message tapping, as half a billion phone calls, emails and internet chat messages could be intercepted by U.S. intelligence monthly on average.

Merkel had voiced concerns over possible electronic surveillance when Obama visited Germany in June.

As a response to the alleged spying activities, members of the European Parliament on Wednesday passed a motion, urging the European Union to deny the U.S. access to the global banking database.

The unbinding resolution was approved following revelations about the NSA's alleged tapping of EU citizens' bank data held by the Belgian company SWIFT.

[Source: Ria Novosti, Beijing, 24oct13]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
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