Italy demands responses to U.S. spy reports

Defence minister calls for bold response from EU

Italy demands responses to U.S. spy reports

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, July 1 - Italy demanded answers from the United States Monday after allegations surfaced in the media that the US spied on the diplomatic offices of the European Union and several countries, including Italy. "We have to call things what they are: if we're allies, it is unacceptable that someone behaves that way," said Defense Minister Mario Mauro, stressing that the reports must be confirmed. Speaking at a forum hosted by Italian daily La Repubblica, the defence minister suggested the affair could force the EU to take a bold position. "Perhaps for the first time we'll see if such a thing as European foreign policy exists," he said. "Europe tends to grow up when its back is to the wall". The European Commission handed European Union foreign chief Catherine Ashton a mandate earlier Monday to raise the issue of United States eavesdropping of EU data with US authorities in Washington and Brussels. The EC said it expected the US to clear up the affair, saying it anticipated the US would be "as transparent as the EU expects from its allies". The suspicions of US spying on EU missions and the embassies of European countries were based on a report published Sunday by German weekly Der Spiegel. It claimed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) bugged diplomats from allies such as the EU offices in Brussels, New York and Washington, as well as embassies of countries such as Italy, Greece and France. The report was partly based on revelations of American government secret surveillance leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor reportedly seeking asylum in Russia after the US revoked his passport. The leaks, which had already generated friction between the US and Russia, now risk derailing talks over creating a transatlantic free-trade agreement between Europe and the US planned for 2015. "There can be no negotiations...until we have obtained guarantees" that the US is not spying on the EU, said French President Francois Hollande. Negotiations are to take place next week in Washington. "It's a thorny issue that needs to be met by satisfactory responses," Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said. Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino voiced confidence the US would provide all the necessary details on the case. US President Barack Obama responded to the wave of remarks from European leaders by vowing to hand over all the information America's allies were requesting. The tone in Italy's dailies was skeptical. "The Cold War is back, without the atom bomb but with the Web," said Il Giornale. "It's evident that the explanation given by Washington, that its information gathering is tied to anti-terrorism activities and the need to keep its aggressive enemies at bay, is only partly true," said Il Corriere della Sera.

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