US guilty of breach of trust, Merkel says after claim it bugged her phone

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 4:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 10:24am

German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused the United States of an unacceptable breach of trust yesterday after allegations that its spies bugged her personal mobile phone.

Arriving for a two-day summit in Brussels which has been overshadowed by allegations of eavesdropping by the US National Security Agency, Merkel said she had told President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation that the acts were unacceptable.

"It's not just about me but about every German citizen. We need to have trust in our allies and partners, and this trust must now be established once again," she said. "I repeat that spying among friends is not at all acceptable against anyone, and that goes for every citizen in Germany."

Video: Spying between friends 'just not done': Merkel

Earlier, Germany summoned the US ambassador in Berlin - a rare step between close allies - after initial reports that Merkel's mobile phone had been monitored by US intelligence services.

The affair dredges up memories of eavesdropping by the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany, where Merkel grew up, and is an emotive topic for many Germans.

The White House said it is not now listening in on Merkel - but did not say whether her communications may have been intercepted in the past. Washington also denied reports of eavesdropping on France.

Initially expected to be a routine affair, the summit of all 28 European Union leaders has been taken over by the escalating row with Washington, testing ties between longstanding allies.

The European Commission pressed leaders for "a strong and united stand" as they gathered.

"Data protection must apply no matter if it concerns the e-mails of citizens or the mobile phone of Angela Merkel," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

France and Germany pushed on Friday for Washington to agree rules for the spy game after the damaging revelations.

Leaders “took note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the US,” EU President Herman Van Rompuy told a press conference.

Van Rompuy said other countries could join Berlin and Paris should they wish in seeking this trust-based “understanding” with the United States in the field of intelligence gathering.

In a statement in the early hours, the leaders of the EU “underlined the close relationship between Europe and the USA and the value of that partnership”.

They “expressed their conviction that the partnership must be based on respect and trust, including as concerns the work and co-operation of secret services”.

Britain has long-established intelligence ties with the United States but questioned on London’s role, Van Rompuy stressed that all leaders had agreed on the text.

Britain “of course has a special relationship [with the United States] ... but they are completely on board with this text”, he added.

Prime Minister David Cameron made no comment to waiting reporters neither on his way in nor on leaving the meeting.

More could follow after a fresh slew of damaging revelations, with Britain’s Guardian newspaper reporting that Washington had listened in on the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press