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US hit by new spying row amid anger in France, Mexico

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US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden speaks during a dinner with US ex-intelligence workers and activists in Moscow, on October 9, 2013/AFP

US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden speaks during a dinner with US ex-intelligence workers and activists in Moscow, on October 9, 2013/AFP

PARIS, Oct 22 – The United States has become embroiled in a new row over its controversial spying programme as allies France and Mexico condemned revelations Washington tapped millions of phone calls and hacked into leaders’ emails.

French President Francois Hollande on Monday expressed his “deep disapproval” of reports of US spying in a phone call with President Barack Obama.

France’s Le Monde newspaper reported that the US National Security Agency had secretly monitored 70.3 million phone communications in France over 30 days from December 10, 2012, to January 8 this year.

The allegations, the latest from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also marred a visit to Paris by US Secretary of State John Kerry, where he discussed moves to try to end the war in Syria.

At the same time, German weekly Der Spiegel reported the NSA had also hacked into former Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s email account.

Calderon, on Twitter, described the revelations as an “affront to the institutions of the country, given that it took place when I was president”.

Hollande told Obama that the alleged practices were “unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens”, the French leader’s office said in a statement.

The allegations come on top of previous revelations by Snowden – who has sought safety in Russia as US authorities pursue him for leaking classified information – that the United States had a vast, secret programme called PRISM to monitor Internet users.

French prosecutors are already investigating the programme, and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” by the new revelations.

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“It’s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence,” he told journalists.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on a visit to Luxembourg, said US ambassador Charles Rivkin was summoned to his ministry early Monday.

“These kinds of practices between partners that harm privacy are totally unacceptable,” he told reporters, adding France needed assurances that the United States was no longer monitoring its communications.

His comments were relayed to the US ambassador during the meeting, a ministry spokesman said — the second time in less than four months that America’s top representative in France has been hauled in over revelations about US snooping.

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