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U.S. says spy charges cause 'moment of tension' with allies

The U.S. embassy is pictured in Berlin October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz
The U.S. embassy is pictured in Berlin October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday allegations that U.S. intelligence agencies tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others in France and Italy have "posed a moment of tension" with some allies and should not undermine cooperation on such issues as Syria and Iran.

"There is no question that the disclosure of classified information has posed a moment of tensions with some of our allies," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

"We are having discussions with those allies," she said referring to a visit next week by German intelligence chiefs to Washington to seek answers.

She said Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the accusations, based on allegations by fugitive ex-U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden, with officials in France and Italy during a recent visit to Europe.

Psaki said the leaks about U.S. intelligence activities had "created significant challenges in our relationships" with allied nations and a "public distraction."

"He (Kerry) certainly recognizes that as we look to pursue a range of diplomatic priorities, whether that is working on global issues like Syria, or Iran, or (trade negotiations), it will really be a mistake to let these disclosures get in the way of that," Psaki said.

Merkel has demanded that President Barack Obama address the issue following the accusations that the U.S. National Security Agency accessed tens of thousands of French phone records as well as monitoring her private phone.

Berlin plans to send officials from its intelligence agency BND to Washington, while members of the European Parliament have said they will fly to the United States on Monday to explore "possible legal remedies for EU citizens."

Washington is currently working closely with European allies on a host of pressing global issues, including negotiations to end a dispute with Iran over its nuclear program and bringing together warring parties for a peace conference in Syria.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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