Anger, no surprise as US newly accused of spying in France

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PARIS (AP) -- Embarrassed by leaked conversations of three successive French presidents and angered by new evidence of uninhibited American spying, France demanded answers Wednesday from the Obama administration and called for an intelligence "code of conduct" between allies.

France's foreign minister summoned the U.S. ambassador to respond to the WikiLeaks revelations, as French eyes fixed on the top floor of the U.S. Embassy after reports that a nest of NSA surveillance equipment was concealed behind elaborately painted windows there, just down the block from the presidential Elysee Palace.

"Commitments were made by our American allies. They must be firmly recalled and strictly respected," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. "Being loyal doesn't mean falling into line."

President Barack Obama told French President Francois Hollande in a phone conversation Wednesday that the U.S. wasn't targeting his communications. The White House said Obama told Hollande that the U.S. was abiding by a commitment Obama made in 2013 not to spy on the French leader after Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of NSA surveillance powers.

The White House said Obama also pledged to continue close cooperation with France on matters of intelligence and security.

If not a surprise, the latest revelations put both countries in something of a quandary.

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Anger, no surprise as US newly accused of spying in France
French President Francois Hollande speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Monday, June 22, 2015. Eurozone finance ministers were cautiously optimistic on Monday that a deal on Greece's bailout was finally within reach this week, amid fears the country might otherwise default on its debts and fall out of the euro. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
US Ambassador Jane Hartley attends an event for the loading of two barrels of 250 liters of Hennessy cognac aboard the French frigate 'Hermione' on March 13, 2015 in La Rochelle, western France. The frigate will cross the Atlantic ocean in April 2015, in the footsteps of its illustrious predecessor built in the 18th century. AFP PHOTO / XAVIER LEOTY (Photo credit should read XAVIER LEOTY/AFP/Getty Images)
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius waves as he arrives at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on June 24, 2015 for a new meeting of French President the day after WikiLeaks revelations of US spying on the three last French presidents. France branded as unacceptable reported spying the United States on French senior officials and warned Paris would not tolerate actions that threaten its security. The WikiLeaks revelations said the NSA spied on the presidents during a period of at least 2006 until May 2012. AFP PHOTO /DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
French Army Chief of Staff General Pierre de Villiers (2nd R) arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris on June 24, 2015 for an emergency meeting of security chiefs after top secret documents released by Wikileaks indicated that the US had spied for years on the current French president and his two predecessors. France said on June 24 that spying was 'unacceptable between allies' after WikiLeaks said leaked documents showed that the US wiretapped President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius leaves the weekly cabinet, Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Paris, France. France summoned the U.S. ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday following revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the past three French presidents. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Head of the Front de Gauche group at the French National Assembly Andre Chassaigne arrives at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on June 24, 2015 for a meeting of French President with members of Parliament the day after WikiLeaks revelations of US spying on the three last French presidents. France branded as unacceptable reported spying the United States on French senior officials and warned Paris would not tolerate actions that threaten its security. The WikiLeaks revelations said the NSA spied on the presidents during a period of at least 2006 until May 2012. AFP PHOTO /DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
French President Francois Hollande walks through the lobby of the Elysee Palace after the weekly cabinet, Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Paris, France. France summoned the U.S. ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday following revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the past three French presidents. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian leaves the weekly cabinet, Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Paris, France. France summoned the U.S. ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday following revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the past three French presidents. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius leaves the weekly cabinet, Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Paris, France. France summoned the U.S. ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday following revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the past three French presidents. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal leaves the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on June 24, 2015 following a series of meeting with French President with ministers and members of Parliament the day after WikiLeaks revelations of US spying on the three last French presidents. France branded as unacceptable reported spying the United States on French senior officials and warned Paris would not tolerate actions that threaten its security. The WikiLeaks revelations said the NSA spied on the presidents during a period of at least 2006 until May 2012. AFP PHOTO /DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Former U.S. vice President and Environmentalist advocate Al Gore, left, speaks with U.S. Ambassador in France Jane Hartley after their meeting with French president Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Monday, May 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
French President Francois Hollande walks through the lobby of the Elysee Palace after the weekly cabinet, Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in Paris, France. France summoned the U.S. ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday following revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the past three French presidents. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French President Francois Hollande, left, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras participate in a meeting at an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels on Monday, June 22, 2015. Heads of state in the eurogroup meet in Brussels Monday for a special summit to discuss the financial crisis with Greece. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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France's counter-espionage capabilities were called into question at the highest level. The United States, meanwhile, was shown not only to be eavesdropping on private conversations of its closest allies but also to be unable to keep its own secrets.

"The rule in espionage - even between allies - is that everything is allowed, as long as it's not discovered," Arnaud Danjean, a former analyst for France's spy agency and currently a lawmaker in the European Parliament, told France-Info radio. "The Americans have been caught with their hand in the jam jar a little too often, and this discredits them."

The French aren't denying the need for good intelligence - they have long relied on U.S. intel cooperation to fight terrorism for example, and are trying to beef up their own capabilities, too.

The release of the spying revelations appeared to be timed to coincide with a final vote Wednesday in the French Parliament on a bill allowing broad new surveillance powers, in particular to counter threats of French extremists linked to foreign jihad.

Hollande, calling the U.S. spying an "unacceptable" security breach, convened two emergency meetings as a result of the disclosures about the NSA's spying.

The documents appear to capture top French officials in Paris between 2006 and 2012 talking candidly about Greece's economy, relations with Germany, and American spying on allies.

The top floor of the U.S. Embassy, visible from France's Elysee Palace, reportedly was filled with spying equipment hidden behind tromp l'oeil windows, according to the Liberation newspaper, which partnered with WikiLeaks and the website Mediapart on the documents.

U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry, where she promised to provide quick responses to French concerns, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. He said he understood eavesdropping for counterterrorist reasons, "but this has nothing to do with that."

Hollande was sending his top intelligence coordinator to the U.S. to ensure that promises made after earlier NSA spying revelations in 2013 and 2014 have been kept.

Valls said the U.S. must do everything it can, and quickly, to "repair the damage" to U.S.-French relations from the revelations.

"If the fact of the revelations today does not constitute a real surprise for anyone, that in no way lessens the emotion and the anger. They are legitimate. France will not tolerate any action threatening its security and fundamental interests," he said.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters, "France does not listen in on its allies." He added, "we reminded all (government) ministers to be vigilant in their conversations."

Two of the cables - dealing with then-President Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, his predecessor - were marked "USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL" suggesting that the material was meant to be shared with Britain, Canada and other members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

The disclosures, which emerged late Tuesday, mean that France has joined Germany on the list of U.S. allies targeted by the NSA.

An aide to Sarkozy told The Associated Press that the former president considers these methods unacceptable. There was no immediate comment from Chirac.

As the lower house of parliament prepared to vote Wednesday on the new surveillance measures, the French government again denied accusations that it wants massive NSA-style powers.

"I will not let it be said that this law could call into question our liberties and that our practices will be those that we condemn today," Valls said.

And while the French rhetoric was lively Wednesday, the high-level U.S.-French meetings showed that the countries remain important allies, and suggested they were ready to paper over their differences.

In Germany, revelations that the NSA was listening to Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone weighed on relations with the U.S. for a while but it has very much receded from the top of the political leaders' agenda.

Le Foll, the French government spokesman, who was heading Wednesday to Washington on a previously scheduled trip, said it wasn't a diplomatic rupture, riffing that France was sending not an aircraft carrier to the U.S. but a replica of the Hermione, the ship that carried General Marquis de Lafayette from France to America in 1780 to offer help in the Revolution.

But, he added, "when you see this between allied countries it's unacceptable and, I would add, incomprehensible."

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