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NSA scandal splits government and opposition

The opposition Social Democrats have slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government over its handling of the NSA spying affair. Meanwhile, Chancellery Minister Ronald Pofalla is testifying again in parliament.

The head of the Social Democrats in parliament, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has called the government's decision not to let him testify in front of the parliamentary committee on the NSA scandal on Monday "outrageous."

Merkel's coalition government insisted Steinmeier could not be heard that quickly, as the committee did not have enough time to prepare.

"The fact that they refused me shows that Merkel's government is not interested in clearing things up," he said.

The government said last week that Steinmeier, who used to be chancellery minister and thus in charge of coordinating Germany's secret services, supported an agreement to strengthen cooperation between the NSA and Germany's foreign intelligence agency the BND.

Steinmeier, who insists the agreement served to investigate the September 11 attacks in the US rather than the wiretapping of ordinary citizens, then offered to testify immediately, but was refused.

Meanwhile on Monday, the current chancellery minister, Ronald Pofalla testified again before the parliamentary committee. He is expected to be questioned on how much the German government knew about the NSA's spying activities on ordinary German citizens.

He will also be grilled on whether data passed on to the NSA by Germany's BND contributed to the killings of terror suspects. The committee's chairman, Social Democrat Thomas Oppermann said that kind of support would be against international law.

BND president Gerhard Schindler's testimony will also be heard by the committee.

ng/ccp (Reuters, AFP)