Tuesday 23 January 2018

Furious EU chiefs attack 'unacceptable' spying by US

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Tom Parfitt Moscow Bruno Waterfield Brussels Damien McElroy London

FRENCH President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both said spying on EU members was "unacceptable".

Europeans are furious over claims that the US ran an extensive spying operation against the European Union and dozens of its allies.

And Mr Hollande threatened to block negotiations on a $100bn-a-year transatlantic free trade treaty.

Meanwhile, the German foreign ministry has called in the US ambassador to demand assurances that surveillance would be stopped.

Mr Hollande said: "We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies. We ask that this immediately stop.

"There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States," he added.

Germany also backed Mr Hollande's threat to freeze trade talks launched last month at the G8 summit, stating that "mutual trust" was a necessary basis of negotiations.

"We aren't in the Cold War any more," said Steffen Seibert, Mrs Merkel's chief spokesman.

Yesterday US President Barack Obama promised to supply all the information requested by European allies regarding the spying allegations.

SWEEP

But he added: "Every intelligence service, not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service, here's one thing they're going to be doing: they're going to be trying to understand the world better."

The EU commission ordered a sweep of its headquarters and overseas offices for the presence of listening devices.

And last night Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton described the allegations that Washington spied on the European Union and other allies as "very disconcerting" but insisted clarification on what exactly took place is still needed.

The EU has strongly demanded that the US explain a report that Washington is spying on the group, saying that, if true, the alleged surveillance was "shocking".

Meanwhile, whistleblower Edward Snowden is believed to be in a closed area of the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after arriving there on June 23 from Hong Kong.

He had leaked details of widespread surveillance by US security services of American citizens' emails and telephone calls. The furore over his continuing revelations widened yesterday. At a press conference in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last night of Mr Snowden: "If he wants to go somewhere and someone will take him – please, go ahead. If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: that he stops his work aimed at inflicting harm on our American partners, strange as that may sound coming from my lips."

Mr Putin said that Mr Snowden was not a Russian agent but stressed that he would "never" be extradited to the US.

"Russia never gives anybody up and doesn't plan to in the future," he said.

The ambiguous comments suggested the Kremlin was entering a bargaining process with Washington over the fugitive's fate. They came shortly after a senior Russian security official announced that Mr Putin and Mr Obama had ordered their security services to collaborate to find a solution to the Snowden affair.

Mr Obama confirmed that the US had held "high level" discussions with Moscow over Mr Snowden. (© Daily Telegraph)

Irish Independent

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