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NSA affair: Merkel wants global agreement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has floated a global deal to protect data in reaction to revelations about US surveillance. Her center-left election challenger has accused her of failing to elicit answers from the US.

Chancellor Merkel on Saturday suggested international agreement on ways to ensure data privacy, modeled on recent negotiations to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

In an interview to be published Sunday, the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag said Merkel had said that "digital communication raises new questions worldwide."

"We should be able, in the 21st Century, to sign global agreements," Merkel said, adding that Germany was working to "take up the challenge."

Oath upheld?

Watch video 01:31

PRISM questions dominate Merkel presser

Opposition Social Democrat (SPD) chancellery candidate for Germany's September election Peer Steinbrück told an SPD conference in Munich on Saturday that Merkel risked breaking her oath to safeguard communication privacy rights guaranteed to citizens in Germany's constitution.

There had been no answers from her to key questions, Steinbrück said, referring to weeks of widely reported revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA) from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Merkel must outline "in which dimension" fundamental rights in the Federal Republic of Germany had been violated by NSA practices, Steinbrück said. "That's the first question."

'Two sides'

On Friday, Merkel told a pre-election press conference in Berlin - prior to her summer holidays - that there were two sides to the debate on security versus freedom.

Germany was "not a surveillance state," she said, adding that past US intelligence had helped to locate Germans kidnapped abroad.

Surveys show Merkel and her conservatives remain frontrunners overall for the September 22 federal election, but two-thirds of German voters are dissatisfied with her government's efforts to bring clarity to the murky affair.

For three weeks, Snowden has been stranded in an international transit zone at a Moscow airport. He has asked for temporary asylum in Russia. The US has revoked his passport.

ipj/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)