Fri, Jun 26, 2015 - Page 7 News List

US reassures Paris over spy row

‘TERRIFIC RELATIONSHIP’:NSA documents published by WikiLeaks appear to show the US spied on French presidents between 2006 and 2012 — with revealing results


US President Barack Obama on Wednesday moved to defuse tensions after revelations of US spying on three French presidents angered France, while WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange called for legal action over Washington’s snooping and promised more disclosures to come.

Obama spoke by telephone with French President Francois Hollande to assure him that the US was no longer spying on European leaders, a day after the WikiLeaks Web site published documents alleging Washington had eavesdropped on the French president and his two predecessors.

“President Obama reiterated without ambiguity his firm commitment ... to stop these practices that took place in the past and which were unacceptable between allies,” Hollande’s office said in a statement.

Hollande had earlier convened his top ministers and intelligence officials to discuss the revelations, with his office saying that France “will not tolerate any acts that threaten its security.”

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also summoned the US ambassador for a formal explanation.

The documents — labeled Top Secret and appearing to reveal spying on Hollande and former French presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy between 2006 and 2012 — were published by WikiLeaks along with French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart Web site.

Assange on Wednesday told French television that the time had come to take legal action against Washington over its foreign surveillance activities.

Addressing parliament, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Washington’s actions “constitute a very serious violation of the spirit of trust” and France would demand a new “code of conduct” on intelligence matters.

The White House earlier responded that it was not targeting Hollande’s communications and would not do so in the future, but it did not comment on past activities.

Claims that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on European leaders, revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden in 2013, had already led to promises from Obama that the practice had stopped.

The leaked documents include five from the NSA, the most recent dated May 22, 2012, just days after Hollande took office.

It claims Hollande “approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone.”

It also says the French president believed after talks with Merkel that she “had given up [on Greece] and was unwilling to budge.”

“This made Hollande very worried for Greece and the Greek people, who might react by voting for an extremist party,” according to the document.

Another document, dated 2008, was titled “Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve the world financial crisis.”

It said the former French leader “blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the US government, but believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice.”

US officials said there was no spying going on now.

“Let me just be very, very clear ... we are not targeting President Hollande, we will not target friends like President Hollande,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said. “And we don’t conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is some very specific and validated national security purpose.”

Kerry told reporters he had “a terrific relationship” with French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius, adding that “the French are indispensable partners in so many ways” including in the Iran nuclear talks.

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