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Merkel 'phone tap' obstacle to business as usual

German defence minister: if allegations are true, it would be difficult for the German and U.S. sides to return to their everyday agenda

BERLIN, October 24 (Itar-Tass) - If U.S. secret services had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile telephone it would be difficult for the German and U.S. sides to return to their everyday agenda, Thomas de Maizier, the German defence minister, declared on ARD television on Thursday.

He admitted that the situation was serious if what they were told was true, realising that his own telephone might have been tapped but unable to imagine that it was the work of the U.S. He branded tapping as "unacceptable".

Peter Schaar, Federal Commissioner for Data Protection in Germany, has demanded resolute measures to prevent "electronic spying" going beyond what was considered reasonable limits.

Parliamentary secretary Michael Grosse-Brömer, from the CDU/CSU faction in the German parliament Bundestag, declared that if the information was confirmed that Merkel's telephone had been tapped, it would have been an outrageous incident of breach of confidence.

Merkel demanded immediate clarification about the reported tapping in a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, spokesman for the German government Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday.

Parliamentarian reaction

Meanwhile, German Bundestag’s committee responsible for control of special services announced an extraordinary meeting scheduled on Thursday to look into the suspicion Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone may have been bugged by the US special services, according to the committee's chairman, Thomas Oppermann.

“Those who are tapping the Chancellor's phone may also tapping the phones of the country’s other citizens,” he said. “The US National Agency’s activities have gone out of control and beyond democratic supervision.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has summoned US ambassador to Berlin earlier today due to the row over rumors Angela Merkel’s cell phone conversations may have been tapped by US secret services.

“The Ambassador has been given a clear account of the German government’s position on the issue,” said the ministry’s spokesman.

Discussion on EU summit

French President Franois Hollande and German Chancellor Angel Merkel will discuss the tapping scandal on sidelines of the upcoming EU summit, a French diplomatic source said Thursday.

“The meeting was originally to consider other questions, but the two leaders will obviously talk about this issue as well in order to co-ordinate their response,” the source explained. The EU recently saw several high-profile revelations by a former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of US secret services' operations to intercept EU leaders’ phone calls. The scandal developed after Berlin followed in Paris's footsteps to demand explanations from the US special services. Earlier on Thursday German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned the US ambassador for explanations concerning the suspicion the US National Security Agency has been tapping Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

Earlier this week the French newspaper Le Monde published documents saying that in December 10, 2012 - January 8, 2013 alone the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted tens of millions of calls by French citizens, among them diplomats, outstanding politicians and businessmen. In a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama earlier this week Hollande requested explanations of the disclosed practice.

Amid the scandal Paris expressed skepticism about US National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s statement Washington was collecting data with a view to protecting the country from terrorism and from the proliferation of weapon of mass destruction. Experts were not surprised at the news that the US spied even on its long-standing allies.

“The Americans spy on us, we spy on them. All countries, even if they co-operate in fighting terrorism, keep an eye on each other,” a former French counter-intelligence chief, Bernard Squarcini told the French newspaper Le Figaro.

U.S. neighbors

U.S. relations with its southern neighbors have also been compromised due to leaks regarding NSA activity. 

“The Mexican government strongly condemns the spying practice over communication tools and internet activity of the country’s state agencies and its citizens,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It added that such cases were completely unacceptable, unlawful and contrary to international legislation.

Previosuly,  Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has postponed her official visit to the U.S. which was initially scheduled for October 23, over allegations of American digital espionage.

More to come

This Tuesday, Former Guardian newspaper journalist Glenn Greenwald, who released data from U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) fugitive Edward Snowden, told the Inter American Press Association (Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa) in Denver, Colorado that he was preparing new revelations of U.S. surveillance activity.