Europe

Press aghast at latest US spying claims

This picture taken on June 5, 2009 shows US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel listening to translations during a press conference at Dresden Castle in the centre of the eastern German town of Dresden
Image caption Angela Merkel has told Barack Obama that monitoring her phone would amount to a "serious breach of trust"

European papers describe allegations that the US has monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone as "serious" and "scandalous".

But German dailies also take Mrs Merkel to task for not complaining about US surveillance programmes much earlier.

Meanwhile papers in the US warn of damage to the relationship between Washington and European capitals.

Germany

"Biggest possible affront," reads a headline on the website of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung broadsheet. Mrs Merkel's mobile is her "control centre", the paper argues. "An attack on her phone would be an attack on her political heart."

But the daily also criticizes the chancellor for failing to complain to the US as soon as there were "claims that the NSA eavesdrops on Germans on a massive scale".

The Berliner Zeitung regrets that "only now does the government appear to really understand what is happening". "At the height of the NSA affair in the summer, the governing coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats showed an infuriating lack of interest," it says.

Germany's best-selling Bild daily talks of "serious suspicion" against US secret services and a "scandal". "Officially the government declared the NSA affair to be over in August. Now it is back with a vengeance," the paper observes.

Die Welt warns of a period of "serious strain in the relationship between Germany and the US". It describes reports that the US probably tapped into the chancellor's mobile as a "slap in the face" for Mrs Merkel and the German authorities.

The weekly Der Spiegel is concerned that the "serious suspicion" of phone-tapping "could strain not just bilateral ties but also and especially the personal relationship between Merkel and Obama."

France, Italy, Spain

The French daily Le Figaro talks of a "serious accusation" against the US. It regards the German government's reaction as "a warning shot directed at the United States and a call for a common and strong reaction by the EU".

Italy's La Stampa expects the EU to be next to respond. "After the cases of Mexico and France, with President Hollande's resounding protests, it is now Germany's turn - and soon probably the European Union's - to raise its voice," it says.

An editorial in Spain's El Pais warns that "the Obama administration cannot continue using the strategy of silence and obstruction in the face of what is being revealed as a scandalous mass infringement of individual rights".

United States

The New York Times fears that there is mounting damage to "core American relationships". If the US really tapped into Mrs Merkel's phone, "the trust between Berlin and Washington could be severely damaged," the paper warns.

A blog in The Washington Post predicts that this "latest scandal is plausibly going to lead to a major confrontation between the European Union and the United States over NSA spying".

The Wall Street Journal agrees that the "uproar" in Berlin "is the latest sign that the National Security Agency scandal has the potential to continue to inflict damage on Washington's relationships with overseas partners."

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