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US lawmakers in Berlin for NSA talks

German officials have urged the US to restore trust between the countries following allegations of spying by intelligence services. Berlin and Washington are currently working on a new agreement regarding espionage.

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US Rebuilds Trust with Berlin

The United States should make a "special effort" to restore trust, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Monday following a meeting in Berlin with US Senator Chris Murphy and Ambassador John Emerson. Outgoing German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the US still must explain spying allegations, including claims that the National Security Agency (NSA) had targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Confidence has been lost," said Westerwelle, who also met US Representative Gregory Meeks. "We have to work to ensure that it can be restored." Westerwelle added that "we want a good balance between security and privacy" and "clear rules are needed for the future."

German concerns about the NSA's operations culminated in claims last month that US intelligence services had targeted Merkel's mobile phone since 2002. Many of the allegations originated from information provided by Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower. Several German opposition lawmakers have called for Snowden to testify to a potential parliamentary inquiry in Berlin.

'Action is needed'

Media reports of US intelligence agencies' surveillance activities within Germany and elsewhere in Europe have burdened the country's relationship with the United States, Friedrich said. Murphy, the chair of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on European affairs, seemed to agree with Friedrich, and emphasized the importance of the transatlantic partnership.

"It's not just about words," Murphy said. "Action is needed now."

After Monday's talks, Meeks, a Democrat from New York state, said that Germany and the United States would need to strengthen their relationship again for further mutual benefit. The US congressmen plan to head to Brussels on Tuesday.

Dark history

The allegations of US spying come particularly sensitive issue in the country because of its Nazi past, as well as the extensive surveillance operations of the East German secret service until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Friedrich said he hoped that the US Congress would seize the initiative to prevent such occurrences in the future.

Friedrich called spying among friends "totally unacceptable."

After meeting the US delegation Monday, Thomas Oppermann, the Social Democrats' parliamentary group leader and chairman of the secret service oversight committee, called the US espionage affair "not over."

"We expect further light to be shed," he said, adding that German political parties had agreed that "the completely out-of-hand practice of bugging by the NSA must finally have limits."

mkg/ph (AFP, dpa, AP)

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