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Austria calls on Germany to clarify spying allegations

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria called on Germany to fully clarify allegations that German intelligence agents systematically spied on politicians, international organizations and companies on Austrian territory, as reported by two newspapers on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz during a joint news conference in the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

Between 1999 and 2006, Germany’s federal intelligence service BND spied on around 2,000 targets at political institutions, international organizations, banks, companies and weapons producers in Austria, said daily Der Standard and weekly Profil.

“There must be no such thing among friendly states,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz at a news conference in Vienna, which was also attended by Austria’s President Alexander van der Bellen.

“Our wish is of course to know who was monitored, when the surveillance was ended, and of course we want to have certainty that it was stopped,” Kurz said.

Allegations that Germany’s intelligence services helped the Americans spy on European officials and firms first surfaced in 2014, and Austria filed a legal complaint a year later.

But the sheer extent of spying activities, if verified, was new, Kurz said.

The chancellor said his government had been in contact with the German authorities and that they seemed to be willing to cooperate.

“We are confident that Germany is willing to clarify the allegations and create transparency,” he said, adding there was currently no indication that the spying continued after 2006.

Der Standard and Profil said their information was based on BND files, which were given to them by a German source.

They analyzed a list, that named roughly 2,000 targets, among them the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.S. and Iranian embassies, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as Austrian ministries, banks, companies and news agency APA, they said.

Germany’s BND was not immediately available for comment.

Austria itself plans to overhaul its main domestic intelligence agency after a controversy in which the far-right interior minister was accused by political opponents of trying to purge its ranks.

That led Germany to fear that intelligence they had given to Austria might have been compromised.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Madeline Chambers; Editing by Ros Russell