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Germany: Obama's NSA vow fails to address concerns

BERLIN -- Chancellor Angela Merkel's government said yesterday that President Barack Obama's pledge for new restrictions on mass surveillance by U.S. spy agencies so far offered "no answer" to Germany's concerns over spying.

The government in Berlin will "look very closely" at the consequences of Obama's Jan. 17 speech on the matter while talks between the two countries' intelligence officials continue, Merkel's chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters.

Norbert Roettgen, the chairman of the lower house foreign affairs committee, said divisions over U.S. surveillance presented a "real problem" in the face of U.S. defense of its bulk data collection. "The fundamental question is, should security services be able to do everything they're technically able to do," Roettgen, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told broadcaster ZDF. "Obama essentially said 'yes.' "

The National Security Agency's collection of signal intelligence, including allegedly hacking into Merkel's mobile phone, sparked a trans-Atlantic rift as Germany struggles to lock in a "no spy" agreement with the United States.

"We will look very closely at what practical consequences the announcements of the U.S. president carry," Seibert told a regular government news conference in Berlin, adding that key German concerns had not yet been addressed.

Obama told Germany's ZDF in an interview broadcast Saturday that it will "take some time to win back trust" and that his directive blocking surveillance on leaders of U.S. allies means that "the chancellor of Germany will not have to worry about this" as long as he's president.

But the NSA will continue to spy on Merkel advisers even after Obama's assurances on the chancellor, the German newspaper Bild reported yesterday.

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