Obama invites Merkel to Washington after phone-tap row

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Wednesday invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington in an effort to mend fences after a diplomatic crisis provoked by revelations of US eavesdropping on her mobile phone.

Mr Obama called Ms Merkel to wish her a speedy recovery after her recent skiing injury and invited her to visit at a "mutually agreeable time in the coming months," the White House said in a statement.

Ms Merkel reacted furiously last year to revelations that the National Security Agency had been listening in on her mobile phone calls, telling Mr Obama in an October telephone call that such action would be a "breach of trust" between two allies.

The reports in US and European media outlets, sourced from documents leaked by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, damaged US relations with key allies and were a political and personal embarrassment for Mr Obama.

Washington never confirmed that the eavesdropping had taken place, but implicitly confirmed reports by the careful formulation of its response to questions from reporters.

The White House said that US spies were not currently monitoring Ms Merkel's phone and would not do so in the future, but would not comment on past surveillance activity.

The invitation to Ms Merkel comes as the White House tries to draw a line under the Snowden issue, with Mr Obama poised to give a speech to Americans this month detailing how the NSA's massive phone and data collection activities will be reformed.

Ostensibly, Mr Obama called Ms Merkel, with whom he had a close relationship prior to the Snowden revelations, to check on her health after she broke her pelvis while skiing. "The president spoke to Chancellor Merkel today to wish her a speedy recovery following her injury and to congratulate her on the formation of her new cabinet," the statement said.

"The leaders noted the full agenda for 2014, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations and NATO Summit, and looked forward to working closely together to advance our shared interests."

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