US ambassador summoned in France spying row

Tuesday 22 October 2013 07.48
US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin has insisted relations with France are still close
US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin has insisted relations with France are still close

France has summoned the US ambassador to protest allegations of large-scale spying on French citizens by the US National Security Agency.

The allegations that the agency was collecting tens of thousands of French telephone records risked turning into a diplomatic row just as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris for the start of a European tour over Syria.

"I have immediately summoned the US ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d'Orsay (the French Foreign Ministry)," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.

Earlier, France's interior minister, Manuel Valls, said Le Monde's revelations that 70.3 million pieces of French telephone data were recorded by the NSA between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013 were "shocking".

"If an allied country spies on France or spies on other European countries, that's totally unacceptable," Mr Valls told Europe 1 radio.

US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin declined immediate comment but stressed that US-French ties were close.

"This relationship on a military, intelligence, special forces ... level is the best it's been in a generation," Mr Rivkin told Reuters as Mr Kerry arrived in Paris.

In July, Paris prosecutors opened preliminary inquiries into the NSA's programme, known as Prism, after Germany's Der Spiegel and Britain's The Guardian revealed wide-scale spying by the agency following leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"We were warned in June (about the programme) and we reacted strongly but obviously we need to go further," Mr Fabius said.

"We must quickly assure that these practices aren't repeated."

The NSA's targets appeared to be individuals suspected of links to terrorism, as well as those tied to French business or politics, Le Monde wrote.