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United States

US intel chief Clapper denies French phone spying allegations

The head of US intelligence, James Clapper, has said claims by France's Le Monde newspaper about American wiretaps of French citizens are false. French President Hollande has spoken with US President Obama on the matter.

Clapper said late on Tuesday that the report from Le Monde contained "inaccurate and misleading information regarding U.S. foreign intelligence activities."

"The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million 'recordings of French citizens' telephone data' is false," Clapper added in a written statement.

According to Le Monde's online article published Monday, the NSA gathered 70.3 million French phone records between December 10, 2012 and January 8 of this year. The article cited documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and was co-written by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who originally broke the NSA story.

"We have repeatedly made it clear that the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations." Clapper's statement read. "[This is] to protect the nation, its interests and its allies from, among other things, threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

The newspaper followed the telephone spying allegations with a report on Tuesday that said the US spied on French embassies around the world.

The leaders of both countries spoke earlier in the week by telephone. According to a statement from French President Francois Hollande's office, Hollande told US President Barack Obama that the alleged spying is "unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens."

Meanwhile, a White House statement said the two leaders "discussed recent disclosures in the press - some of which have distorted our activities and some of which raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies."

On Monday French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius summoned the US ambassador to France over the allegations and told reporters, "these kinds of practices between partners that harm privacy are totally unacceptable.”

mz/kms (AFP, AP)