Phone tap?

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BERLIN – Germany has summoned the United States ambassador in Berlin over claims that America monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will meet American envoy John Emerson later in what is seen as an unusual step between close allies.

Merkel has demanded a “complete explanation” of the claims, which are threatening to overshadow an European Union summit.

She discussed the issue with United States’ President Barack Obama yesterday.

President Obama told Merkel America was not monitoring her calls and would not in future, the White House said. However, it left open the question of whether calls had been listened to in the past.

On Monday, France summoned the United States ambassador over reports in Le Monde newspaper that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on millions of French phone calls. A day later, Le Monde reported that the NSA had spied on French diplomats in Washington and at the United Nations.

France’s President Francois Hollande had already called for the issue to be put on the agenda of the summit, where EU leaders are due to discuss Europe’s digital economy, economic recovery and immigration.

Other leaders are also likely to want further clarification from Washington over the activities of its NSA in Europe. The German government has not said how it received the tip about the alleged US spying. But news magazine Der Spiegel, which has published stories based on material from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, said the information had come from its investigations.

State-monitoring of phone calls has a particular resonance in Germany – Merkel herself grew up in East Germany, where phone-tapping was pervasive. (BBC)

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