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Germany

Germany Apologizes for Spying on Afghan Minister

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta on Saturday to express regret over the monitoring of another Afghan minister by the German foreign intelligence service.

A man eavesdropping on journalists working in an office

Germany hopes that the wiretapping incident will not damage its relations with Afghanistan

Both sides had expressed the view that the affair -- the monitoring of e-mail correspondence between Afghan Trade and Industry Minister Amin Farhang and a German journalist -- would not impact on "the good trusting relations" between Germany and Afghanistan, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Saturday, April 26.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that Farhang had been the ultimate target of a spying operation that also involved Susanne Koelbl, one of its journalists.

President of the German foreign intelligence service (BND), Ernst Uhrlau, apologized to Koelbl for the activities of his agents, which experts say contravenes German law.

Two years ago, the BND admitted spying on journalists to discover their sources. It later apologized, calling it a one-off.

Shocking revelation

Mohammad Amin Farhang speaking at a news conference

Fahrang's communication with a German journalist was monitored by the BND

In an article written before the Steinmeier-Spanta phone call and released on Saturday ahead of publication, Der Spiegel reported that Spanta had in fact been outraged by the revelation.

"I am angry and repulsed by these methods that should not take place in a democracy," Spanta told the weekly.

He expressed shock that Germany, which he saw as a close ally, would take action of this kind.

The German Foreign Ministry said Steinmeier was still seeking to contact Farhang, who studied in Germany and speaks fluent German, to express his regrets personally.

Disciplinary measures

On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's office ordered disciplinary measures be taken against three intelligence service members, including Uhrlau and the head of the department responsible for the spying operation.

Ernst Uhrlau delivering a speech at a symposium in Berlin

BND president Ernst Uhrlau has been the target of intense criticism

Uhrlau was brought before the parliamentary control commission on Wednesday and Thursday and told of the Bundestag's displeasure. He has faced calls for his resignation over the spy scandal, but the parliamentary oversight committee (PKG) stopped short of demanding he step down.

Farhang was angered by the revelation that he had been spied on, telling the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that the implication that he was in complicity with the Taliban had endangered him and his family.

Another German daily, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, reported on Saturday that other Afghan ministers feared they had been monitored as well by the BND, which had allegedly also eavesdropped on Farhang's phone calls.

Six of the 20 Afghan cabinet ministers have spent part of their lives in Germany and speak German, the newspaper said. Farhang holds a doctorate from the University of Cologne and taught at the University of Bochum before returning home.

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