The United States has acknowledged "tensions" with its allies following reports that American intelligence agencies eavesdropped on the telephone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and spied on communications in other countries.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said “there is no question that the disclosure of classified information has posed a moment of tensions with some of our allies.”
She said U.S. officials were holding discussions with Germany and other allies, and noted that German intelligence officials are due to hold talks in Washington in the coming weeks.
European Union leaders on October 25 issued a statement warning that a lack of trust with Washington could harm the fight against terrorism by undermining intelligence cooperation.
Merkel has said that trust with Washington has been “severely shaken” by disclosures about U.S. electronic surveillance operations.
In reaction to the disclosures, French and German officials have said they will seek to establish by the end of this year a new "understanding" with the Obama administration concerning U.S. intelligence activities.
At the United Nations, reports said German and Brazilian diplomats were leading efforts to draft a resolution in the General Assembly that would set out global guarantees of privacy in electronic communications.
Diplomats said the resolution would expand the right to privacy guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which went into force in 1976.
Alongside European critics, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has emerged as a leading voice against excessive U.S. electronic spying.
Earlier this year, she cancelled a scheduled visit to Washington after reports said the U.S. National Security Agency had infiltrated the computer network of Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras and had collected data on Brazilian e-mails and telephone calls.
This week’s revelations have included a report in Britain’s “Guardian” newspaper, based on documents provided by former U.S. national security contractor Edward Snowden, saying that the United States monitored phone calls of 35 international leaders.
In her briefing, State Department spokeswoman Psaki noted that President Barack Obama had ordered a review of American surveillance activities.
"The president has directed us to review, directed the government to review, our surveillance capabilities, including with respect to our foreign partners," she said. "We want to ensure we're collecting information because we need it, and not just because we can."
U.S. officials say the surveillance carried out by the United States is needed to thwart terrorist plots, or is necessary to defend U.S. security and economic interests. Washington argues that the eavesdropping is legal and is similar to the espionage conducted by many nations of both hostile and allied states.
Critics, however, say U.S. agencies are sweeping up vast volumes of Internet and telephone data that goes beyond what is necessary to battle extremists or defend national security and amounts to an invasion of privacy of individuals and businesses.
With reporting from AP, dpa, and Reuters