BERLIN, Feb 23 — US intelligence spied on talks German Chancellor Angela Merkel held with the UN chief and key European leaders, a German newspaper reported today citing classified documents released by WikiLeaks.
The US National Security Agency (NSA), which drew fire for tapping Merkel’s mobile phone, also gathered information on a 2008 conversation about climate change she held with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said.
In the exchange ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit, Merkel said the world expected the EU to take a leading role on the issue, while Ban praised Merkel’s personal engagement on tackling climate change, the report said.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in an online statement that “today we showed that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s private meetings over how to save the planet from climate change were bugged by a country intent on protecting its largest oil companies”.
German-US relations were badly strained after fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed widespread US foreign surveillance, including tapping Merkel’s mobile phone.
Issues surrounding such surveillance are hotly debated in Germany, a country with raw memories of state snooping under fascist and communist dictatorships.
Wikileaks also released new documents on a 2011 meeting Merkel held with then French president Nicolas Sarkozy and then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In the meeting Merkel and Sarkozy pressured Berlusconi to reduce public debt and strengthen Italy’s banking sector, reported the Sueddeutsche.
The meeting was tense and unfriendly, according to a Berlusconi advisor, who the daily said may have been the target through whom the NSA obtained the information.
Another document showed the NSA listened in on talks between Berlusconi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Netanyahu asked Berlusconi to help him improve relations with Washington that were strained by plans for Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.
WikiLeaks, founded by Australian Assange in 2006, has infuriated the United States by releasing some 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 250,000 diplomatic cables. — AFP