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United States 'spied on three French presidents'

AFP/The Local · 24 Jun 2015, 08:18

Published: 24 Jun 2015 08:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Jun 2015 08:18 GMT+02:00

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The United States wiretapped three French presidents, including current leader Francois Hollande, documents released online by WikiLeaks showed Tuesday.

The documents -- classed as "Top Secret" and first reported in partnership with French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website -- also revealed that Hollande approved secret meetings on the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone as early as 2012.

The spying spanned 2006 to 2012, the documents showed.

The revelations prompted the French leader to call a defence council meeting first thing Wednesday "to evaluate the nature of the information published by the press on Tuesday evening and to draw useful conclusions", said one of his aides.

They also come just weeks after President Barack Obama signed into law landmark legislation ending the government's bulk telephone data dragnet, significantly reversing American policy by reining in the most controversial surveillance programme since 9/11.

Among the documents, which showed that former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy were also spied on, are five from the US National Security Agency, including the most recent dated May 22, 2012, just days after Hollande took office.

It claims the French leader "approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone".

It also says that Hollande believed after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she "had given up (on Greece) and was unwilling to budge".

"This made Hollande very worried for Greece and the Greek people, who might react by voting for an extremist party," according to the document.

The same file also alleges that the French leader went behind Merkel's back to schedule meetings in Paris with members of the Social Democrats -- Germany's main opposition party then.

 'Unacceptable methods'
Another document, dated 2008, was titled "Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve world financial crisis", and said the former French president "blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the US government, but believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice".
Chirac's choice for appointments at the United Nations was the subject of a file dated 2006. In that same document, then foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy was described as someone who has the "propensity... for making ill-timed or inaccurate remarks".
Neither Hollande's office nor Washington would comment on the information. 
Contacted Tuesday by AFP, Hollande's aide said: "We will see what it is about".
In Washington, the White House National Security Council said: "We are not going to comment on specific intelligence allegations."
"As a general matter, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose," it said.
"This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike," it added, in a statement also released by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
But Sarkozy's aide blasted the alleged spying as "unacceptable methods as a general rule and more particularly between allies".
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 had revealed mass US surveillance activities, sparking global outrage.
Story continues below…
British newspaper The Guardian reported at the time that the NSA has listened in on the phone calls of 35 world leaders. According to different reports they include the leaders of France, Mexico, Brazil.
While it was not known then if Hollande's phone was tapped, the French leader had said in a visit in February 2014 to Washington that the two allies had resolved their differences over American digital eavesdropping.
"Mutual trust has been restored," Hollande said then.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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