(AP) European Union leaders on Friday vowed to maintain a strong trans-Atlantic partnership despite their anger over allegations of widespread U.S. spying on its allies. France and Germany insist new surveillance rules should be agreed with the United States by the end of the year.
"What is at stake is preserving our relations with the United States," French President Francois Hollande said early Friday, insisting that "trust has to be restored and reinforced."
Heading into the final day of their summit, most EU leaders shared the view that good partnership trumped deep resentment over the snooping of U.S. security services.
"The main thing is that we look to the future. The trans-Atlantic partnership was and is important," said President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, whose country holds the EU presidency.
On Thursday's opening day of the summit, the spying issue united the 28 EU leaders in criticizing the snooping on Thursday's after allegations surfaced that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had one of her mobile phones tapped by U.S. services.
Her government said Friday that senior officials will travel to the U.S. "shortly" for talks at the White House and with the National Security Agency to push forward efforts to clear up the surveillance allegations.
Government spokesman Georg Streiter said the heads of Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence agencies would participate. He did not give specific dates, saying that they would be arranged at "relatively short notice."
Merkel and Hollande insisted that beyond being fully briefed on what happened in the past, the European allies and Washington need to set up common rules for surveillance which does not impede the fundamental rights of its allies.
"The United States and Europe are partners but this partnership must be built on trust and respect," Merkel said early Friday. "That of course also includes the work of the respective intelligence services."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration was discussing Germany's concerns "through diplomatic channels at the highest level," as it was with other U.S. allies worried about the alleged spying.
Unlike Germany, France and Belgium, Britain has not complained publicly about NSA actions, which could complicate European leaders' attempt to present a united front in the unusually heated row with the United States.
Britain and the United States enjoy a strong, mutually beneficial intelligence sharing program, and Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman has refused to comment on the current controversy.
The White House may soon face other irked heads of state and government. The Guardian, a British newspaper, said it obtained a confidential memo suggesting the NSA was able to monitor 35 world leaders' communications in 2006.
The memo said the NSA encouraged senior officials at the White House, Pentagon and other agencies to share their contacts so the spy agency could add foreign leaders' phone numbers to its surveillance systems, the report said.
Obama adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism Lisa Monaco wrote in an editorial published on the USA Today website Thursday night that the U.S. government is not operating "unrestrained."
The U.S. intelligence community has more restrictions and oversight than any other country, she wrote. "We are not listening to every phone call or reading every e-mail. Far from it."
Robert Wielaard contributed from Brussels, Geir Moulson from Berlin and Gregory Katz from London.