UK ambassador grilled over Berlin embassy ‘spying’

The Reichstag building in Berlin, which houses Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament. Picture: AFP/Getty

The Reichstag building in Berlin, which houses Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament. Picture: AFP/Getty

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BRITAIN’S ambassador in Berlin was summoned by the German foreign ministry following reports that the embassy was used as a secret listening post.

Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle requested the attendance of Simon McDonald to respond to the claims.

A spokeswoman for the embassy confirmed the meeting had taken place but refused to give details.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin said: “At the instigation of Foreign Minister Westerwelle, the British ambassador was asked to an interview in the Foreign Office.

“The head of the European Department asked for a response to current reports in the British media, and pointed out that the interception of communications from the premises of a diplomatic mission would be behaviour contrary to international law.”

The embassy spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that meeting has taken place but we are not commenting on anything else to do with this at all.”

Allegations that the embassy was used to monitor Germany’s seat of power were reported in the Independent, based on documents leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The newspaper said an American intercept “nest” on top of its embassy was believed to have been shut down last week as the US attempted to limit the damage caused by revelations that it carried out surveillance on German chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

The NSA documents, together with aerial photographs and information on previous activities in Germany, suggest Britain is operating its own covert eavesdropping post on the embassy roof, close to the Bundestag [parliament] building and Mrs Merkel’s offices in the Chancellery, the Independent reported.

The allegations could cause embarrassment to David Cameron, who has strongly defended the UK’s intelligence agencies in the wake of the Snowden revelations.

Asked about the claims at a regular briefing in Westminster, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We don’t comment on intelligence matters.”

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