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Hollande, Obama discuss latest US spying allegations

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French President François Hollande discussed new reports of US spying in a Monday phone call with President Barack Obama following revelations in "Le Monde" that the US National Security Agency monitored millions of phone calls in France.

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French President François Hollande discussed reports of US spying on French citizens in a Monday phone call with US President Barack Obama following revelations in "Le Monde" that the US National Security Agency (NSA) monitored millions of phone calls in France.

A statement from Hollande's office said he expressed "deep disapproval of these practices, which are unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens".

The statement said the two leaders had agreed "to work together to determine the facts and the exact scope of surveillance activities" revealed by the French newspaper.

Surveillance operations should take place within a "bilateral framework" and agreed that US and French intelligence agencies would "work together to this effect", the statement said.

The White House said that some of the allegations of US activities carried in the French press were "distorted".

The White House brushed off France's protests over the latest NSA spying allegations, saying “all nations” conduct espionage operations.

Washington, in line with its normal procedure, declined to comment on the specific charges that outraged its ally.

But National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement that “we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations”.

She added, "As the president said in his speech at the UN General Assembly, we've begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share."

"The President and President Hollande 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 about how these capabilities are employed," a White House statement said.

"The President made clear that the United States has begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share," the statement continued.

The White House said Obama and Hollande had "agreed that we should continue to discuss these issues in diplomatic channels moving forward".

The White House had initially brushed of France's protests over the lastest spying allegations, saying that "all nations" conduct espionage operations.

Foreign ministers meet

In a breakfast meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reiterated that France wanted an "explanation" for the latest revelations.

Fabius asked for “an explanation of spying practices that are unacceptable between partners and which must stop", a spokesman for the minister said after the brief meeting.

Paris also sent signals that it wants to defuse the row. Asked if France was considering any retribution over the NSA revelations, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem played down the possibility.

"It is up to Foreign Minister Fabius to decide what line we take, but I don't think there is any need for an escalation [of the situation]," Vallaud-Belkacem told France 2 television.

France's Communist Party, on the other hand, said the country should leave NATO over the latest reports of US spying.

The US ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, was summoned on Monday to the foreign ministry in Paris over the claims, which were based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by "Le Monde" and the German weekly "Der Spiegel".

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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