25 April 2014

Hollande seeks guarantees on spying if US trade talks to proceed

14:45, Post Reporter

French president Francois Hollande said any US spying on European officials “must cease immediately” and that France needs guarantees on this if trade talks are to go ahead.

“There can’t be any negotiations or transactions without these guarantees,” Hollande said today following allegations of US wiretapping of its European allies.

The French president said he’s asked his foreign minister Laurent Fabius to contact US secretary of state John Kerry and the US ambassador to France “to seek all explanations.”

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, raised the bugging allegation in a meeting today, Kerry said at a press conference in Brunei where he’s attending a forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I agreed to find out what the situation is and I will get back with her,” Kerry told reporters, adding he had no direct knowledge of the matter reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. Citing classified documents obtained by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the periodical said the US National Security Agency had wiretapped diplomatic missions in Washington and New York, infiltrated computer networks and referred to the 28-nation EU as a “target.”

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In a statement yesterday, Ashton said she was seeking “urgent clarification of the veracity of the facts surrounding these allegations” and would decline further comment until she hears a US explanation. She didn’t respond to reporters’ requests for comment today.

**China Role**

Following the Der Spiegel claims, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is asking the US ambassador for explanations.

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“We aren’t in the Cold War anymore,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said at a news conference in Berlin today. “If it’s true that diplomatic missions have been spied on, it would be absolutely unacceptable for us.” Germany’s Foreign Ministry “invited” the US ambassador in Berlin to discuss the matter with a senior official today, spokesman Martin Schaefer said.

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