Germany spying scandal: Merkel offers to testify

Angela Merkel and her coalition partner Sigmar Gabriel (6 May) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mrs Merkel and her coalition partner Sigmar Gabriel took part in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered to give evidence to MPs amid allegations that the BND intelligence service helped the US spy on targets in Germany and neighbouring countries.

She has come under political pressure after the leader of her SPD coalition partner revealed he had twice asked her if German companies had been spied on.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere will testify before MPs on Wednesday.

Mrs Merkel said she too would be prepared to give evidence.

"I will testify and answer questions where necessary and that would be in the parliamentary inquiry if desired. I'm happy to do that," she told Radio Bremen.

However, she stopped short of agreeing to provide a list of "selectors" - the IP addresses, internet search terms or mobile phone numbers handed by America's National Security Agency (NSA).

Many other documents would be provided to MPs, she said. However, Germany was talking to the US about the affair, she said, and only after that could any decisions be made.

Earlier this week her coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, publicly called for a "thorough inquiry", and said he had twice asked Mrs Merkel if the BND had targeted German companies on behalf of the NSA.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has faced calls to resign for his role in the spying scandal

Twice she denied it, he said, adding that he had no reason to doubt the chancellor had answered correctly.

The BND has worked with the US for years, but it is now clear that the targets went far beyond potential terrorist threats.

Its monitoring station at Bad Aibling was reportedly used to spy on the French foreign ministry and presidential palace as well as the European Commission, Austrian federal agencies and Airbus group.

Austria filed a legal complaint on Tuesday against "an unnamed party" in response to the reports.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said there was no evidence yet but it was "not far-fetched to suspect that Austria was also spied on".

Her German counterpart, Thomas de Maiziere, who has come under pressure to resign over the affair, gave evidence on Tuesday to a parliamentary committee that controls the intelligence services.

"As chancellery chief of staff in 2008 I knew nothing about search terms from the US side or... similar things for the purpose of industrial espionage in Germany," he told reporters after the closed-door meeting.

"No company names were mentioned. There is no substance to the allegations made against me," he added.

The scandal has caused cracks in the so-called grand coalition between Mrs Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats and the centre-left SPD.

But Mrs Merkel said in her interview that "we're working very, very well together in the coalition. You don't need to worry about that."

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