Britain's largest telecom companies have been directly warned by Washington against using Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, just hours after Vodafone admitted it had identified security flaws several years ago.

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Huawei gets go-ahead for 5G in the UK

Vodafone, BT and Telefonica's O2 were called by US officials to a closed-door meeting at their embassy in London on Tuesday to discuss alleged risks posed by Huawei gear to UK security.

Details of the meeting emerged after Vodafone revealed it had discovered hidden security flaws in Huawei equipment used on its Italian network about a decade ago. The telecoms giant said the vulnerabilities had since been resolved, according to Bloomberg.

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The report said the security flaws, which date to 2009, could have given Huawei unauthorised access to Italian homes and businesses.

Vodafone acknowlegded vulnerabilities had been found but rejected claims there was any evidence of unauthorised access.

The hastily scheduled meeting was thought to have been arranged with Robert Strayer, the US State Department's deputy assistant secretary for cyber.

Sources familiar with the matter said he was keen to reiterate concerns over Huawei equipment, which the US claims can be used for Chinese spying.

Huawei has categorically denied the allegations. A statement said: "Singling out one vendor does nothing to help the industry identify and address cyber security threats more effectively."

The meeting follows revelations in the Telegraph last week that Theresa May had given the green light for Huawei to appear in parts of the forthcoming 5G networks, against the wishes of the US government.