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Germany's Merkel seeks 'sensible talks' with US on spy differences, aims for accord

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BERLIN — Germany wants "sensible talks" with the United States on the two countries' spat over alleged American spying, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday, indicating that Berlin is still aiming for a formal accord.

Washington has dismissed the idea of a "no-spy" agreement demanded by Germany since reports last year that the U.S. National Security Agency was conducting mass surveillance of German citizens — and eavesdropping even on Merkel's cellphone. The discovery of two alleged U.S. spies in Germany earlier this month further stoked German anger, prompting Merkel to demand the departure of the CIA station chief in Berlin.

"Trust can only be restored through talks and certain agreements," Merkel said in her first lengthy news conference since the two spy cases came to light. "We will seek out such talks, though I can't announce anything concrete right now."

She said she doesn't expect "quick agreements."

PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks up during her annual summer press conference in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks up during her annual summer press conference in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany where state surveillance was a fact of life, said her administration and that of U.S. President Barack Obama have "different positions on what's needed to guarantee security and at the same time protect personal data."

While the Obama administration has remained largely silent, U.S. commentators have defended the need to spy on even close allies such as Germany, citing the country's close links to Russia and fact that several members of the 9/11 terror cell lived in Hamburg before the attacks.

Despite the spy row, Merkel insisted that Germany and the U.S. remain close partners "and nothing about this will change."

Merkel dismissed the idea that her government would allow Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor whose leaks sparked a worldwide flurry of reports on U.S. spy activity, to come to Germany.

"We learned things (from him) that we didn't know before, and that's always interesting," she said of Snowden's revelations, but added, "granting asylum isn't an act of gratitude."

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PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions during her annual summer press conference ahead of her vacations at the Federal Press Conference association in Berlin, Germany, Friday, July 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
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