Britain's ambassador in Berlin was summoned by the German foreign ministry following reports that the embassy was used as a secret listening post.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle requested the attendance of Simon McDonald to respond to the claims.

A spokeswoman for the embassy confirmed the meeting had taken place, but refused to give details.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin said: "At the instigation of Foreign Minister Westerwelle, the British ambassador was asked to an interview in the Foreign Office.

"The head of the European Department asked for a response to current reports in the British media, and pointed out that the interception of communications from the premises of a diplomatic mission would be behaviour contrary to international law."

The embassy spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that meeting has taken place but we are not commenting on anything else to do with this at all."

Allegations that the embassy was used to monitor Germany's seat of power were reported in The Independent, based on documents leaked by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The newspaper said a US intercept "nest" on top of its embassy was believed to have been shut down last week.

The US is attempting to limit the damage caused by revelations that it carried out surveillance on Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

The NSA documents, together with aerial photographs and information on previous activities in Germany, suggest Britain is operating its own covert eavesdropping post on the embassy roof, close to the Bundestag parliament building and Mrs Merkel's offices in the Chancellery, the Independent reported.

State surveillance is an especially sensitive subject in Germany, a country haunted by memories of eavesdropping by the Stasi secret police in the former communist East Germany.