* Ties frayed by reports U.S. bugged Merkel's phone
* Differences of opinion no reason to wiretap - Obama
* Rare TV interview day after Obama bans spying on allies
BERLIN, Jan 18 U.S. President Barack Obama told
Germans and their leader on Saturday he would not let
intelligence work damage relations, and differences of opinion
between the two countries was no reason to wiretap.
In a rare interview on German TV, Obama set out to mend ties
frayed last year by media reports citing leaked intelligence
documents that Washington was spying on European Union citizens
and had bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.
"I must and cannot damage this relationship through
surveillance measures that obstruct our trusting communication,"
Obama told ZDF public TV, according to a German translation of
"As long as I am the President of the United States, the
German Chancellor need not worry about that," he added.
The interview came a day after Obama banned U.S.
eavesdropping on the leaders of close allies, among a series of
reforms triggered by the revelations of former U.S. security
contractor Edward Snowden.
Obama's comments on Saturday were his clearest indication
that Germany was included in that list of allies.
Merkel and he "may not always be of the same opinion on
issues of foreign policy, but that is no reason to wiretap," he
The German leader accused the United States of an
unacceptable breach of trust after the allegations about her
mobile in October and phoned Obama to tell him any bugging was
unacceptable. Berlin has since been pushing for a sweeping
"no-spy" agreement with Washington.
Obama stopped short of apologising over the allegations on
Saturday and defended the importance of U.S. intelligence work
for international security.
The capabilities of the U.S. services went "beyond the
abilities of many other states," he said, and that meant a
"special responsibility for the United States".
"Why would we need intelligence services if they only found
out things you can read in Spiegel (magazine) or the New York
Times," he asked.
"Per definition, those services are tasked with finding out
what people are planning, what goes on in their minds, what
their aims are. That supports our diplomatic and political
Even as the White House put the final touches on its
security reform plan this week, media outlets reported that the
National Security Agency gathers nearly 200 million text
messages a day from around the world and has put software in
almost 100,000 computers allowing it to spy on those devices.
Snowden, living in asylum in Russia, is wanted on espionage
charges, although some Americans would like him to be granted
amnesty for exposing secrets they feel needed to be made public.
(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Andrew Heavens)