Germany apologizes for bugging Afghan minister
Move comes after it is learned that the German intelligence agency, the BND had spied on correspondence between Farhang and a journalist working for Der Spiegel news magazine.
Berlin/Kabul -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier phoned his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta Saturday to apologize for the monitoring of another Afghan minister by the German foreign intelligence service, the BND.
Both sides had expressed the view that the affair -- the monitoring of e-mail correspondence between Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Amin Farhang and a German journalist -- would not impact on "the good trusting relations" between Germany and Afghanistan, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in Berlin.
In Kabul, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said: "The Afghan government is concerned about the reading of Mr. Farhang's e-mails, and we hope that this action will not be repeated."
The spokesman added that the issue was not expected to damage the "friendly and historical" relations between the two countries.
But it described the monitoring as "an inappropriate act" and said a request had been made that it should not happen again.
A week ago, it was made known that the BND had spied on correspondence between Farhang and Susanne Koelbl, a journalist working for Der Spiegel news magazine.
BND President Ernst Uhrlau apologized to Koelbl for the activities of his agents, which experts insist contravenes German law.
In an article written before the Steinmeier-Spanta phone call and released Saturday ahead of publication, Der Spiegel reported that Spanta had in fact been outraged by the revelation.
"I am angry and repulsed by these methods that should not take place in a democracy," Spanta told the weekly.
He expressed shock that Germany, which he saw as a close ally, could take action of this kind.
The German Foreign Ministry said Steinmeier was still seeking to contact Farhang, who studied in Germany and speaks fluent German, personally to express his apologies.
On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered an inquiry into the affair and that the officials concerned should be disciplined.
Three senior officials have been removed from their posts and Merkel had ordered an internal investigation, spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.
Farhang was angered by the revelation that he had been spied on, telling the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that the implication drawn from the intelligence that he was in complicity with the Taliban had endangered him and his family.
Uhrlau was hauled before the parliamentary control commission on Wednesday and Thursday to be told of the Bundestag's displeasure.
Another German daily, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, reported Saturday that other Afghan ministers feared they had been monitored as well by the BND, which had allegedly eavesdropped on Farhang's phone calls too.
Six of the 20 Afghan cabinet ministers had spent part of their lives in Germany and spoke German, the newspaper said. Farhang holds a doctorate from the University of Cologne and taught at the University of Bochum before returning home.