US President Barack Obama has spoken to France's President Francois Hollande as a row rages between the long-time allies over claims an American spy agency eavesdropped on millions of phone calls of French citizens.
The damage control operation came as the White House complained that some allegations of US activities carried in the French press were "distorted". The White House said: "The President made clear that the US has begun to review the way that we gather intelligence."
Earlier France demanded an explanation from the US after claims that spies intercepted millions of phone calls made by French citizens, including politicians and business leaders. The French Foreign Ministry summoned the American ambassador after Le Monde reported that US intelligence monitored 70 million phone calls and text messages between December 10 last year and January 8.
The newspaper cited documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower. The report was co-written by Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who holds Snowden's leaked data. He wrote that the NSA targeted not only suspected terrorists, but also prominent people from business and politics.
The report said that when certain telephone numbers are used in France, this activates a signal that triggers the recording of certain conversations. The system also picks up text messages and their content using key words.
Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, said he would call for new EU rules on data protection.
- Telegraph Group Ltd, AFP