US: French reports on spying 'inaccurate and misleading'

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States intelligence chief said on Tuesday French newspaper reports about America's espionage activities abroad contained inaccurate and misleading information, the latest flap stemming from US intelligence-gathering efforts.

Meanwhile, the United States faced anger on yet another front in the unfolding saga, this time from Mexico.

The key US neighbour and ally to the south said it would investigate allegations that the United States spied on the emails of President Enrique Pena Nieto and his predecessor, in yet more fallout from leaks by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported on Monday that millions of phone calls in France were monitored by the National Security Agency.

It followed up on Tuesday by publishing details of US spying on French embassies around the world.

While France told the United States to stop snooping on its citizens, the US Director of National Intelligence, Mr James Clapper, said in a statement on Tuesday night that reports from Le Monde contained "inaccurate and misleading" information about America's foreign intelligence activities.

Mr Clapper said the Le Monde report that the NSA collected 70 million recordings of French citizens was "false", but added in a statement that he would not discuss details of US espionage.

"The United States values our longstanding friendship and alliance with France and we will continue to cooperate on security and intelligence matters going forward," he said.

The anger in Mexico City and Paris has put Washington in an awkward position with allies that collaborate on efforts from terror investigations to the war on drugs.

Mr Pena Nieto ordered an "exhaustive" probe into claims that the NSA hacked his emails while he was running for office last year, as well as the messages of predecessor Felipe Calderon while in office.

The Mexican investigation will look into whether such spying indeed took place and if any local officials were complicit, said Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

Since Mr Pena Nieto took office in December, Mexico has "revised and strengthened" the security of the president's voice and computer communications, he added.

The allegations that Calderon was spied on from May 2010 were reported by German weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday after a similar report by US journalist Glenn Greenwald last month that Mr Pena Nieto had been targeted by the NSA.

The Mexican leader has said that US President Barack Obama pledged to launch an investigation into the alleged spying on his emails.

But Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade said he would summon the US ambassador over the latest claims and called the American response so far "unacceptable."