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SPD, opposition ramp up pressure on Merkel over BND allegations

Chancellor Merkel's coalition partners are upping the pressure on her office over the latest allegations against Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND. An opposition leader wants her to testify under oath.

Ralf Stegner, the deputy chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD), with which Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats govern in a grand coalition, used a newspaper interview to demand that her office tell all it knows about the spying allegations.

"For the chancellor, the game of keeping the latest findings at a distance and saying they have nothing to do with her is up," Stegner said in Monday's edition of the Munich-based national daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung." The chancellor, he said, must "enlighten [us] now."

This, he said, meant that "the current head of the Chancellery and both of his predecessors" must appear before the Bundestag's special committee set up to shed light on the surveillance activities of the United States' National Security Agency (NSA). Stegner was referring to the current Chancellery boss, Peter Altmaier, as well as Ronald Pofalla and Thomas de Maiziere, who is now the federal interior minister. All three are members of Merkel's Christian Democrats.

De Maiziere, who was head of the Chancellery between 2005 and 2009, is scheduled to appear before the Bundestag's standing intelligence committee on Wednesday.

Call for Merkel to testify

Meanwhile, the head of the parliamentary party of the opposition Left party, Gregor Gysi, has called for the chancellor herself to appear before the special committee looking into the NSA's activities.

"She must testify - under oath, by the way," Gysi said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD on Sunday.

Gysi said it was clear that the Chancellery had utterly failed in its function as overseer of the intelligence services. He said that either Merkel's staff really didn't know what was going on, meaning they were "abysmal supervisors." Or if people at the Chancellery did know what was happening but failed to act, they may have committed crimes as serious as "industrial espionage and treason," Gysi said.

The latest allegations were first reported in Saturday's edition of the weekly news magazine "Der Spiegel." It said the

BND intelligence agency had "deleted 12,000" requests from the NSA

targeting "a certain number of senior officials from the French foreign service" as well as members of "EU institutions and several European countries."

Airbus Group AIR.PA said Thursday it planned to file a complaint with German authorities over

reports that the BND had helped the NSA spy on it

and other European firms.

pfd/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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