US insists still talking to Germany on spy complaints

14th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

The United States said Tuesday it would keep talking to Germany about its complaints about American spying, despite German press reports that the high-level consultations are doomed to fail.

Germany reacted with fury after fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed in a leaked file that Washington had been spying on the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

High-level German officials had demanded a "no-spying" pact with Washington, but senior US officials have signaled for months that they do not want to set such a precedent for other countries.

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday that the talks were headed for failure, just days before Obama is to lay out reforms of National Security Agency telephone and Internet data sweeps.

"We're getting nothing," one source close to the negotiations was quoted as telling the Munich paper.

Germany had initially hoped for a speedy agreement barring US spying within its borders following verbal US assurances in August, the daily said.

"The Americans lied to us," one unnamed high-ranking German official was quoted as saying.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Caitlin Hayden said consultations on the issue would go on, though she gave little indication that the US government would move substantially towards the German position.

"At Chancellor Merkel and President Obama's direction, we have undertaken extensive, close consultations on our intelligence cooperation in recent months, which have resulted in a better understanding of the requirements and concerns that exist on both sides," Hayden said.

"Such consultations will continue among our intelligence services as a part of our shared commitment to strengthen our practical cooperation in a manner that reflects the shared threats we face, the technological environment in which we operate, our close relationship with one another, and our abiding respect for the civil and political rights and privacy interests of our respective citizens."

The German government declined to comment, with a spokeswoman saying: "The government is in talks with our US partners to place the cooperation of our (intelligence) services on a new footing. These confidential talks are ongoing."

Last week, Obama phoned Merkel to invite her to Washington in the coming months, hoping to mend fences, and the chancellor accepted, although neither side has announced a date.

Merkel has come under fire at home for failing to speak out more strongly against the sweeping US surveillance of citizens before reacting furiously when it emerged that her own phone was targeted.

Obama told reporters on Tuesday he had almost concluded his deliberations on how to rein in NSA activities, in a bid to restore American public confidence following concerns spy agencies were infringing constitutional rights to privacy.

"Actually it's getting close. So I'll have plenty to say about that pretty soon," he said.

The president is due to give a major speech rolling out his proposed reforms on Friday.

© 2014 AFP

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