France's Hollande feared Greek exit back in 2012: WikiLeaks

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande called a secret meeting of his cabinet about the potential consequences of a Greek exit from the euro zone as early as May 2012, WikiLeaks said on Tuesday, citing U.S. National Security Agency secret intelligence reports.

France's President Francois Hollande holds a news conference after at a Eurozone finance ministers emergency meeting on Greece in Brussels, Belgium June 22, 2015. . REUTERS/Eric Vidal

It also said the Socialist Hollande, who at that point had only been in power a few days, had been disappointed by a first meeting as president with conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel and requested talks with leaders of the Social Democratic Party, her centre-left junior coalition partner.

The revelations were made in a batch of intelligence intercepts leaked by WikiLeaks to France’s Liberation daily and the Mediapart investigative website.

France has long maintained that it wants Greece to remain in the euro zone. While it has backed calls for Greece to enact reforms and respect its debt commitments, it has also argued that excessive austerity is not the right answer.

“Hollande stressed that the meeting would be secret,” WikiLeaks quoted an NSA intercept from May 22, 2012 as saying of talks he requested with “appropriate ministers” in his cabinet to discuss possible fall-out on France’s economy and banks if Greece exited the euro zone.

“The French president seems worried that if word were to get out that Paris is seriously considering the possibility of a Greek exit, it would deepen the crisis.”

The intercept added that Hollande had complained that Merkel appeared to have “given up” on Greece when the two leaders met the week before in Berlin.

“This made Hollande very worried for Greece and the Greek people, who might react by voting for an extremist party,” it said, adding that Hollande subsequently invited SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel to Paris for talks.

Gabriel and other SPD officials met Hollande in Paris on June 13 and said after the talks there was broad consensus about the need for more pro-growth policies in the euro zone.

There was no immediate comment from Hollande’s office regarding the WikiLeaks statement.

Greece’s leftwing government expressed confidence on Tuesday that parliament would approve a debt deal with lenders, despite an angry reaction from some of its own lawmakers who accused it of caving in to pressure for more austerity.

WikiLeaks also said on Tuesday that the United States National Security Agency spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, citing top secret intelligence reports and technical documents.

Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Toni Reinhold