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The US is studying the option of supplying lethal defensive arms to Ukraine if diplomacy fails to end the crisis in the east, President Barack Obama has said.

Russia had violated “every commitment” made in the failing Minsk agreement, he added, after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on a new peace deal.

Barack Obama has come under pressure from senior US officials to supply arms, despite objections from Angela Merkel.

Russia denies accusations of sending troops and supplying the rebels.

The latest diplomatic efforts come amid renewed fighting between the pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian government troops, with fighting centered around the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve.

The rebels said on February 9 they had cut off a key supply road to the town, which is near the rebel-held city of Donetsk, but the military says the battle is ongoing.Barack Obama and Angela Merkel Ukraine talks 2015

Ukrainian government officials say nine soldiers and at least seven civilians have been killed in fighting over the last 24 hours.

The crisis in Ukraine has already claimed more than 5,300 lives and displaced 1.5 million people from their homes.

Angela Merkel met Barack Obama in Washington on February 9 to update him on Franco-German efforts to revive last year’s Minsk peace plan, which collapsed amid fighting over the winter.

The detailed proposals have not been released but the plan is thought to include a demilitarized zone of 50-70km (31-44 miles) around the current front line.

Four-way talks between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are due to be held in Belarus’s capital Minsk on February 11 to discuss the proposals.

Speaking alongside Angela Merkel, President Barack Obama said the option of lethal defensive weapons for the Ukrainian government remained on the table.

“If, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options,” he said, adding that offering lethal arms was only one of the options under consideration.

Angela Merkel, who has made it clear she opposes sending lethal arms, acknowledged setbacks in efforts to reach a diplomatic solution with Russia over Ukraine, but said that they would continue.

Meanwhile Barack Obama criticized Russian aggression in Ukraine, saying that the borders of Europe could not be “redrawn at the barrel of a gun”.

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President Vladimir Putin has renewed the blame on the West for the Ukrainian crisis, as he works on Franco-German proposals to end fighting between the government and pro-Russia rebels.

Western countries had broken pledges not to expand NATO and forced countries to choose between them and Russia, Vladimir Putin told an Egyptian newspaper.

The comments come amid new hopes of a peace deal on February 11.

Russia denies accusations of sending troops and supplying the rebels.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 5,300 lives and driven 1.5 million people from their homes.

At least nine Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past 24 hours, officials say.

Photo RT

Photo RT

Fighting is said to be intense around the town of Debaltseve, near the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to brief President Barack Obama in Washington on February 9 on the peace plan Germany and France have tried to reach with Ukraine and Russia.

The Washington talks come as the US considers sending weapons to the Ukrainian government.

Angela Merkel told a security conference at the weekend that she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

Secretary of State John Kerry has denied any rift with EU leaders, saying: “I keep hearing people trying to create one. We are united, we are working closely together.”

Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have been leading efforts to revive the Minsk peace plan, which collapsed amid fighting over the winter.

The detailed proposals have not been released but the plan is thought to include a demilitarized zone of 50-70km (31-44 miles) around the current front line.

The four leaders have announced plans to meet in Minsk on February 11 – provided agreement is reached in the meantime in talks in Berlin.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on February 9 there were hopes for a settlement but nothing had been agreed.

At the start of a visit to Egypt, President Putin renewed his attack on Western countries for their “hollow” promises not to expand NATO to include former Soviet countries, and therefore ignoring Russian interests.

There had been attempts, Vladimir Putin told Egypt’s al-Ahram newspaper, “to tear states which had been parts of the former USSR [Soviet Union] off Russia and to prompt them to make an artificial choice <<between Russia and Europe>>”.

“We repeatedly warned the US and its Western allies about harmful consequences of their interference in Ukrainian domestic affairs but they did not listen to our opinion,” the Russian leader said.

Vladimir Putin went on to accuse them of supporting a “coup d’etat in Kiev” – a reference to the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last year.

Viktor Yanukovych lost power amid protests over his decision to scrap a deal that would have seen Ukraine establish closer ties with the European Union.

Since then, Russia has annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and rebels in the east have sought to establish full control over the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

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Vladimir Putin is to discuss a peace plan for east Ukraine with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders by phone.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are pushing a plan to end bloody fighting between government and rebel forces.

Meeting the Russian president in Moscow on February 6, they agreed to four-way talks with Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko on February 8.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the east since April.

Thousands more have been injured and more than a million have fled their homes.

Ukraine’s military reported continued shelling on February 7, accusing the rebels of preparing new offensives, while the rebels accused the government itself of attacking along the line dividing their forces.

Petro Poroshenko has called on the West for support up to and including weapons.Ukraine peace plan Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko

He made the plea at a security conference in Munich on February 7, when he brandished passports that he said were those of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Russia denies intervening directly in eastern Ukraine.

Angela Merkel told the conference in Munich that there was no guarantee diplomacy would succeed but it was “definitely worth trying”.

The plan is thought to be an attempt to revive a failed ceasefire deal signed in Minsk, in Belarus, in September. Since then, the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.

Francois Hollande said it would include a demilitarized zone of 31-44 miles around the current front line.

The French leader has described the Franco-German plan as “one of the last chances” to end the conflict.

“If we fail to find a lasting peace agreement, we know the scenario perfectly well – it has a name, it is called war,” Francois Hollande said.

The US is said to be considering pleas to send weapons to Ukraine.

Angela Merkel, however, said she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

The statement put Angela Merkel in opposition to NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force general Philip Breedlove, who told reporters that Western allies should not “preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option”.

Vice-President Joe Biden said the US would “continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself”.

“Let me be clear – we do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine,” Joe Biden said.

“But let me be equally clear – we do not believe Russia has the right to do what they’re doing.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has held “constructive” talks with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on efforts to end the conflict in east Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman says.

Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel met for more than five hours.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande had brought to Moscow a peace proposal whose details have not been released.

Russia is accused of arming pro-Russian separatists – a claim it denies.

The Kremlin also rejects claims by Ukraine and the West that its regular troops are fighting alongside the rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Clashes have left nearly 5,400 people dead since April 2014, the UN says.

A September ceasefire, signed in Minsk in Belarus, has failed to stop the violence. Since then the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The peace proposal Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande took to Moscow on February 6 was crafted with the Ukrainian government the day before.

After the two leaders’ discussions with Vladimir Putin, French officials told AFP they had been “constructive and substantial”.

Dmitry Peskov said work was continuing on a joint document. Further talks will be held by phone on February 7, he added.

Earlier, Francois Hollande said the aim was not just a ceasefire but a “comprehensive agreement” – although Angela Merkel said it was “totally open” whether that could be achieved.

Major questions any plan would have to address include the route of any new ceasefire line – given the rebel advances of recent weeks – how to enforce it, and the future status of the conflict zone.

Moscow is still denying any direct role in the conflict, while Kiev insists above all that Ukraine must remain united, our correspondent says.

Washington is considering Ukrainian pleas for better weaponry to fend off the rebels, raising European fears of an escalation in the conflict and spurring the latest peace bid.

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French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting Russia’s Vladimir Putin to try to end escalating fighting in Ukraine.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are taking to Moscow a peace proposal crafted in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on February 5, but details have not been released.

Meanwhile a truce has allowed civilians to leave Debaltseve, at the heart of the latest fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is accused of arming pro-Russian separatists – a claim it denies.

The Kremlin also rejects claims by Ukraine and the West that its regular troops are fighting alongside the rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Clashes have left nearly 5,400 people dead since April 2014, the UN says.

A September ceasefire, signed in Minsk, Belarus, has failed to stop the violence. Since then the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande in Moscow peace talks

Before he left for Moscow on February 6, Francois Hollande said the goal of his visit was not just a ceasefire, but a “comprehensive agreement” – though Angela Merkel said it was “totally open” whether that could be achieved.

Meanwhile Vice-President Joe Biden accused Russia of “continuing to escalate the conflict” and “ignoring every agreement”.

Joe Biden was speaking in Brussels, where he is meeting top EU officials.

He accused Vladimir Putin of continuing “to call for new peace plans as his tanks roll through the Ukrainian countryside”.

He said Russia could “not be allowed to redraw the map of Europe”.

Ukraine is also set to dominate an annual multi-lateral security conference in Munich.

The fighting has intensified in recent weeks after a rebel offensive, and a temporary truce was declared in Debaltseve on February 6, where Ukrainian forces are fighting to hold the town against surrounding rebels.

Convoys of buses travelled to the town on Friday to evacuate civilians who had been forced to shelter underground from the bombing.

They were escorted by monitors from the OSCE security watchdog, Reuters reported.

Washington is considering Ukrainian pleas for better weaponry to fend off the rebels, raising European fears of an escalation in the conflict and spurring the latest peace bid.

On February5, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel examined the peace proposal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, without releasing any details.

Moscow says it is ready for “constructive dialogue” – though still denying any direct role in the conflict – while Kiev insists above all that Ukraine must remain united.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin would discuss “the fastest possible end to the civil war in south-eastern Ukraine”.

Some 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since April 2014, when the rebels seized a big swathe of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kiev to present a new peace initiative.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who is also in Kiev, said the US wanted a diplomatic solution, but would not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels has killed more than 5,000 people since last April.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and sending regular troops across the border.

Russia denies direct involvement but says some Russian volunteers are fighting alongside the rebels.

Speaking at a joint news conference with John Kerry, Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk said: “We need to get peace. But we will never consider anything that undermines territorial integrity… of Ukraine.”

John Kerry accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, saying that Russia had been acting with “impunity”, crossing the Ukrainian border “at will with weapons [and] personnel”.

“We are choosing a peaceful solution through diplomacy – but you cannot have a one-sided peace,” he said.

John Kerry added that President Barack Obama was still “reviewing all options”, including the possibility of providing “defensive weapons” to Ukraine, due to the dangerous escalation in violence.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The US is currently only providing “non-lethal” assistance.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said any decision by the US to supply weapons to Ukraine would “inflict colossal damage to Russian-American relations”.

Several senior Western officials have also expressed concern at the prospect of US arms being sent to Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier likened the option to “throwing more weapons on the bonfire”, while NATO commander Philip Breedlove said governments must take into account that the move “could trigger a more strident reaction from Russia”.

Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel arrived in Kiev on February 5, in what appeared to be a speedily arranged visit.

They met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who thanked them for their visit at “a very urgent time”.

Francois Hollande had said that he and Angela Merkel would present a new peace proposal based on the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine, which could be “acceptable to all”.

However, he warned that diplomacy “cannot go on indefinitely”.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 6.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin would discuss “the fastest possible end to the civil war in south-eastern Ukraine”.

Correspondents say it is not clear how the latest attempt will differ from previous, aborted peace efforts – but there is speculation that Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel hope to discourage the US from supplying Ukraine with weapons.

The talks in Kiev come as NATO unveils details of a plan to bolster its military presence in Eastern Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.

A new rapid reaction “spearhead” force of up to 5,000 troops is expected to be announced, with its lead units able to deploy at two days’ notice.

NATO is also establishing a network of small command centers in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, officials said on February 5 that the European Union is adding 19 people, including five Russians, to its sanctions list over the Ukraine crisis.

Nine “entities” will also be targeted by the sanctions, which were reportedly agreed at an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers last week.

Fighting has intensified in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks amid a rebel offensive.

The fiercest fighting has been near the town of Debaltseve, where rebels are trying to surround Ukrainian troops. The town is a crucial rail hub linking the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Some 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since last April, when the rebels seized a big swathe of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out canceling any of Greece’s debt, saying banks and creditors have already made substantial cuts.

However, Angela Merkel told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper she still wanted Greece to stay in the eurozone.

Greece’s left-wing Syriza party won last weekend’s election with a pledge to have half the debt written off.

Its finance minister said the “troika” of global institutions overseeing Greek debt was a “rotten committee”.

The troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – had agreed a €240 billion ($270 billion) bailout with the previous Greek government.Angela Merkel on Greece debts

Greece’s new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has refused to work with the troika to renegotiate the bailout terms and has already begun to roll back the austerity measures the creditors had demanded of the previous government.

Angela Merkel told the Hamburger Abendblatt: “I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation.”

She said: “There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece’s debt.”

Greece still has a debt of €315 billion ($355 billion) – about 175% of gross domestic product – despite some creditors writing down debts in a renegotiation in 2012.

Angela Merkel insisted she did not want Greece to leave the eurozone.

She said: “The aim of our policy was and is that Greece remains permanently part of the euro community. Europe will continue to show its solidarity with Greece, as with other countries hard hit by the crisis, if these countries carry out reforms and cost-saving measures.”

On January 30, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned Greece about its negotiation tactics on writing off debt.

“There’s no arguing with us about this, and what’s more we are difficult to blackmail,” he said.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis refused to work with the troika, saying he would instead talk to individual organizations and EU member states.

Yanis Varoufakis has brought forward to Saturday his planned trip to Paris, where he will meet French counterpart Michel Sapin.

Greece’s current program of loans ends on February 28. A final bailout tranche of €7.2 billion still has to be negotiated.

New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Cyprus, Italy and France next week but has no plans to visit Germany as yet.

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More than 40 world leaders and 3.7 million people have taken part in unity marches across France after 17 people died during three days of deadly attacks in Paris.

Up to 1.6 million are estimated to have taken to the streets of Paris.

World leaders joined the start of the Paris march, linking arms in an act of solidarity.

The marchers wanted to demonstrate unity after the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and kosher supermarket HyperCacher.

The French government said the rally turnout was the highest on record.

The rally, led by relatives of the victims of last week’s attacks, began at the Place de la Republique and concluded in the Place de la Nation.

Several other French cities also held rallies. The interior ministry said turnout across France was at least 3.7 million, including up to 1.6 million in Paris – where sheer numbers made an exact tally difficult.

World leaders, including UK PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, EU President Donald Tusk, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II joined the beginning of the Paris march.

Photo RT

Photo RT

“Paris is the capital of the world today,” French President Francois Hollande said.

The leaders observed a minute’s silence before the march began.

About 2,000 police officers and 1,350 soldiers – including elite marksmen on rooftops – were deployed in the capital to protect participants.

The Paris march was split into two routes for security purposes.

Marchers chanted “liberte” (“freedom”) and “Charlie”, in reference to Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Some waved French flags, cheered, and sang the national anthem.

Solidarity marches were also held in world cities including London, Madrid, Cairo, Montreal, Beirut, Sydney and Tokyo.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel apologized to rock star Campino for playing one of his songs at her re-election party in 2013.

In his autobiography, extracts of which were published in Der Spiegel, the frontman of Die Toten Hosen said he was touched by the call.

Campino added that he was horrified Angela Merkel “didn’t have anything else to do”.

He had previously said he did want politicians to use the song, Days Like These.

Angela Merkel apologized to Campino for playing one of his songs at her re-election party in 2013

Angela Merkel apologized to Campino for playing one of his songs at her re-election party in 2013

Angela Merkel called Campino, whose real name is Andreas Frege, four days after her re-election, and said her Christian Democrat Party (CDU) had “trampled all over [his] song on election night”.

The chancellor supposedly promised that Days Like These was “not going to be the next CDU anthem”.

Fans had reacted angrily to Angela Merkel’s use of the song.

However, Angela Merkel said that while Campino had asked for it not to be used at political rallies, he had never objected to the song being played at “victory celebrations”.

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France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has submitted the government’s resignation to President Francois Hollande and has been asked to form a new cabinet.

The French government was badly shaken on Sunday by criticism over its handling of the economy by economy minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Moments after Manuel Valls’s resignation President Francois Hollande issued a statement.

Francois Hollande asked Manuel Valls to set up a new cabinet “consistent with the direction [Francois Hollande] has set for the country”.

The prime minister had accused Arnaud Montebourg of “crossing a yellow line” after the economy minister had attacked austerity measures which he said were strangling France’s growth.

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has submitted the government's resignation to President Francois Hollande and has been asked to form a new cabinet

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has submitted the government’s resignation to President Francois Hollande and has been asked to form a new cabinet

Arnaud Montebourg told a meeting of Socialists in eastern France that the time had come to put up a “just and sane resistance” to the “excessive obsessions of Germany’s conservatives”.

On Saturday, Arnaud Montebourg told Le Monde newspaper that Germany was trapped in an austerity policy that it imposed across Europe”.

He was backed up by education minister Benoit Hamon and appeared to have the support of culture minister Aurelie Filippetti, too.

Benoit Hamon called on Sunday for a revival in demand and for an end to German Chancellor Angela Merkel setting Europe’s direction: “You can’t sell anything to the French if they don’t have enough income.”

Manuel Valls became prime minister in March after a poor performance by President Francois Hollande’s Socialist party in local elections.

Earlier this month, the French government admitted it would be impossible to reach a previous growth forecast of 1%. Germany saw its economy shrink by 0.2% between April and June.

Arnaud Montebourg told French radio shortly before Manuel Valls announced the government’s resignation that he had no regrets about his remarks, “first of all because there’s no anger”.

There was no debate about authority, Arnaud Montebourg told Europe 1 radio, but a “debate about economic direction”.

All Russian trucks from an unauthorized aid convoy have now crossed back over the border from Ukraine.

The convoy returned from the eastern city of Luhansk, which is held by pro-Russian separatists. Kiev and Western officials fear the trucks may have had military equipment to help the rebels.

Russia said they had delivered generators, food and drink.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is to receive a 500 million-euro loan from Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Kiev.

The money will be used to help rebuild Ukraine’s damaged infrastructure, Angela Merkel said in a joint press conference with President Petro Poroschenko in the Ukrainian capital on August 23.

A further 25 million euros will go toward helping refugees, the German chancellor said.

Four months of fighting in eastern Ukraine have left more than 2,000 people dead. More than 330,000 people have fled their homes.

The violence erupted when pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence from Kiev, after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.

Ukraine accuses Russia of arming the rebels and sending Russian soldiers into eastern Ukraine – a claim denied by the Kremlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel met President Petro Poroschenko in the Ukrainian capital Kiev

Chancellor Angela Merkel met President Petro Poroschenko in the Ukrainian capital Kiev (photo EPA)

Prior to her arrival in Kiev, Angela Merkel described the Russian convoy’s movement into Ukrainian territory as a “dangerous escalation”.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said there was no information about what most of the convoy – of more than 200 vehicles – was carrying.

The head of the OSCE mission, Paul Picard, said that only the first 37 trucks had been inspected by the Red Cross before they set off into Russia.

The trucks had already been waiting at the border for a week, while Russia, the Ukrainian government and the Red Cross tried to come to an agreement on their passage.

The Russians said the convoy started moving because it could not wait any longer, owing to the worsening humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, which is held by pro-Russian separatists.

The White House and the Ukrainian government both described the deployment of the convoy as a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

In a phone call, President Barack Obama and Angela Merkel said the conflict had “continued to deteriorate” since a Malaysian airliner was downed last month over rebel-held territory, with the loss of all 298 people on board.

Ukraine called the Russian convoy a “direct invasion” of Ukraine.

NATO and the European Union have also criticized what they said was a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

NATO officials have accused Russia of building up troops on its border, saying significant numbers of Russian forces are operating within Ukraine, using artillery.

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Germany has expelled a CIA official in Berlin in response to two cases of alleged spying by the US.

The official is said to have acted as a CIA contact at the US embassy, reports say, in a scandal that has infuriated German politicians.

A 31-year-old German intelligence official was arrested last week on suspicion of spying.

Reports on Wednesday said an inquiry had also begun into a German soldier.

“The representative of the US intelligence services at the embassy of the United States of America has been told to leave Germany,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

The chairman of the Bundestag (German parliament) committee overseeing the German secret service said the action was taken because of American spying on German politicians and its failure to co-operate and provide adequate responses.

Angela Merkel has tried to maintain a balance between condemning the US spying, but also maintaining cordial relations

Angela Merkel has tried to maintain a balance between condemning the US spying, but also maintaining cordial relations

The US has not denied allegations that a German intelligence agency employee arrested last week was passing secret documents to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

However, the latest reports that a soldier within the defense ministry was also spying for the US were considered more serious. Although no arrest was made, searches were carried out on Wednesday at the ministry and elsewhere.

The US and Germany have been close allies for decades but relations were hit last year when it emerged that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been monitored by the NSA.

On Thursday, Angela Merkel said spying on allies was a “waste of energy”.

“We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things,” she said at a news conference with visiting Moldovan PM Iurie Leanca.

Angela Merkel has tried to maintain a balance between condemning the US actions but also maintaining cordial relations. However, each revelation has made that balance harder to achieve, he adds.

The scale of the US agency’s surveillance was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who fled the US and is now a fugitive in Russia.

The German intelligence official arrested last week was alleged to have been trying to gather details about a German parliamentary committee investigating the NSA spying scandal.

German leader Angela Merkel has begun a three-day visit to China with trade issues high on the agenda.

Germany and China are important trading partners and Angela Merkel is travelling with a large delegation of German business executives.

On Sunday, the German chancellor is visiting Chengdu, capital of south-western Sichuan province, where more than 150 German companies are active.

The visit is Angela Merkel’s seventh to China since taking office in 2005.

Angela Merkel has begun a three-day visit to China with trade issues high on the agenda

Angela Merkel has begun a three-day visit to China with trade issues high on the agenda (photo Reuters)

She will also hold talks with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.

The Chinese market is important for Germany while China is looking to Germany as the supplier of machinery and cars for its rising middle class.

In the past, Angela Merkel has spoken out against human rights abuses in China but it is not clear if she will voice her disapproval this time.

At a joint business council in Beijing, the German delegation is expected to address sticking points such as fair market access for foreign companies and respect for intellectual property rights.

In an article in Welt am Sonntag, German intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen warned that small and medium-sized German companies were at risk of industrial espionage from Chinese government agencies.

“They are up against very powerful adversaries. The Chinese technical intelligence agency alone has over 100,000 employees,” Hans-Georg Maassen said in an excerpt of an interview to be published on Sunday.

China is Germany’s second largest export market outside Europe after the US.

Germany sold goods worth 67 billion euros ($91 billion) to China last year, while imports from China topped 73 billion euros.

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Germany has summoned the US ambassador in Berlin after a man was arrested on suspicion of spying for the NSA.

The US diplomat “was asked to help in the swift clarification” of the case, the foreign ministry said.

German officials confirmed the arrest but released no other details.

US-German ties were strained after allegations last year that the NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone as part of a huge surveillance program.

The NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone as part of a huge surveillance program

The NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone as part of a huge surveillance program

The scale of the agency’s global spy program was revealed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The revelations also raised feeling in Germany against American surveillance.

German media say the man arrested this week is a 31-year-old employee of the federal intelligence service, the BND or Bundesnachrichtendienst.

A spokesman for Angela Merkel said she had been informed of the arrest, as had the members of the nine-strong parliamentary committee investigating the activities of foreign intelligence agencies in Germany.

Der Spiegel news magazine said the man was believed to have passed secret documents to a US contact in exchange for money.

However, one unnamed politician told Reuters news agency the suspect had offered his services to the US voluntarily.

“This was a man who had no direct contact with the investigative committee… He was not a top agent,” the source said.

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Germany’s intelligence service has arrested one of its employees on suspicion of spying for the US, reports say.

The man is said to have been trying to gather details about a German parliamentary committee that is investigating claims of US espionage.

German authorities have asked the US ambassador for “swift clarification”.

The NSA was last year accused of bugging the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a huge surveillance program.

The NSA was last year accused of bugging the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a huge surveillance program

The NSA was last year accused of bugging the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as part of a huge surveillance program

The scale of the NSA’s global spy program was revealed in documents leaked last year by Edward Snowden.

The revelations about the NSA put a strain on ties between Germany and the US and raised feeling in Germany against American surveillance.

According to the German media, the man arrested this week is a 31-year-old employee of the federal service, the BND or Bundesnachrichtendienst.

The German federal prosecutor’s office confirmed the man’s arrest, but gave no other details.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had been informed of the arrest, as had the members of the nine-strong parliamentary committee investigating the activities of foreign intelligence agencies in Germany.

Der Spiegel news magazine said the man was believed to have passed secret documents to a US contact in exchange for money.

However, one unnamed politician told Reuters the suspect had offered his services to the US voluntarily.

“This was a man who had no direct contact with the investigative committee… He was not a top agent,” the source said.

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EU Summit in Brussels is expected to confirm former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission.

The move comes despite strong opposition from the UK.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron believes Jean-Claude Juncker is too much in favor of closer political union and might block EU reform.

He also objects to the way Jean-Claude Juncker, a 59-year-old veteran of Brussels deal-making, was put forward.

EU Summit in Brussels is expected to confirm former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission

EU Summit in Brussels is expected to confirm former Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission

Jean-Claude Juncker was lead candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), which won last month’s European elections.

The UK Conservatives – who pulled out of the EPP – suspect that the Commission is being politicized in a power grab by the European Parliament.

However, Jean-Claude Juncker’s supporters value his record of consensus-building and commitment to EU integration.

Under new EU treaty rules the leaders have to take account of the European election result when nominating a Commission chief. The parliament will vote on the nominee next month.

David Cameron is seeking an unprecedented vote on the appointment, which is usually made by consensus.

But his bid to block Jean-Claude Juncker suffered a major setback this week when his allies changed tack.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had given David Cameron hope after agreeing to a vote on the issue if there was no consensus.

But both the Netherlands and Sweden – normally close to UK positions in Europe – have since said they will back Jean-Claude Juncker.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has restated her support for Jean-Claude Juncker to take over as president of the European Commission, at a mini-summit in Sweden.

Angela Merkel said that while she was “happy” to say she wanted Jean-Claude Juncker for the top job, it was not “the main topic” of the two-day talks.

British PM David Cameron, who wants a less federalist candidate, said reform of EC policies had been the priority.

The Swedish and Dutch prime ministers also took part in the talks.

The European Council – representing the EU’s 28 heads of state – is due to announce its Commission candidate later this month.

The leaders have traditionally named the Commission head on their own. However, new rules mean they now have to “take into account” the results of the European Parliament elections, which were won in May by Jean-Claude Juncker’s centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) bloc.

Britain is leading a campaign to block his candidacy. Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch PM Mark Rutte are thought to back David Cameron’s position but did not address the issue with reporters on Tuesday.

Angela Merkel and David Cameron met Sweden's Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch PM Mark Rutte at Harpsund mini-summit

Angela Merkel and David Cameron met Sweden’s Fredrik Reinfeldt and Dutch PM Mark Rutte at Harpsund mini-summit (photo Twitter)

“We have agreed that the future policy priorities of the EU must be decided before we can decide on appointments of different top jobs,” Fredrik Reinfeldt said.

Correspondents say the scene has been set for a lengthy power struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament, with the UK worried about the prospect of a “stitch-up”.

The four centre-right politicians met in Harpsund, near Stockholm, to try to reach a consensus on European reform.

Job creation, economic growth and structural reforms to boost EU competitiveness were also discussed at the meeting, which finished on Tuesday morning.

Angela Merkel said the focus had been on “policy, which is what is really important for Europe and its citizens”.

“I have said it in Germany and so I will again here: Jean-Claude Juncker is my candidate for the position of Commission president and I want to have him as Commission president,” Angela Merkel told journalists at the end of the meeting.

“But that hasn’t been the main point. We didn’t talk about hypothetical situations and we don’t have to answer questions about them.”

David Cameron, who strongly opposes Jean-Claude Juncker’s belief in a closer political union between EU member states, said the right leaders were needed to reform Europe.

“If the European Union doesn’t go in that direction, that would be unhelpful,” he said.

David Cameron has promised British voters a referendum on EU citizenship in 2017, if he gets re-elected next year.

“Obviously the approach that the European Union takes between now and then will be very important,” he added.

The Commission president is the most powerful job in Brussels, shaping EU policy in key areas such as economic reform, immigration and ties with other global powers.

The EPP – the largest centre-right grouping in the parliament – won the most seats in May’s polls, and Jean-Claude Juncker has argued that gives him the mandate.

The decision will be made by the European Council by qualified majority vote. That means no single country can veto the choice.

The result is due to be announced at an EU summit on June 26-27, although an agreement by then is by no means guaranteed.

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German federal prosecutor Harald Range will investigate allegations by Edward Snowden that the US government bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

Harald Range told the German parliament’s legal affairs committee that an investigation would be held against “unknown” persons.

Angela Merkel has publicly asked for an explanation for the alleged spying by the NSA.

The inquiry was announced as President Barack Obama visited Europe.

German federal prosecutor Harald Range will investigate allegations by Edward Snowden that the US government bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone

German federal prosecutor Harald Range will investigate allegations by Edward Snowden that the US government bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone

“Sufficient factual evidence exists that unknown members of the US intelligence services spied on the mobile phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel,” Harald Range said on Wednesday.

At the same time, he said he had decided against opening an investigation into claims of wider NSA surveillance of German citizens, AFP news agency reports.

Pressure for a wide-ranging investigation had been growing, correspondents say.

Angela Merkel and Barack Obama are due to meet in Brussels at a G7 summit on Wednesday.

Barack Obama told Angela Merkel last month that he was “pained” that Edward Snowden’s disclosures had strained the US-German relationship.

He said he had directed US intelligence agencies to weigh the privacy interests of non-Americans as well as US citizens and residents, “in everything that they do”.

Angela Merkel has proposed establishing a European communications network to avoid emails and other data automatically passing through the US.

On Wednesday, Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said he would not “evaluate” or comment on the prosecutor’s decision.

“The government didn’t exert any influence on the prosecutor,” he said in quotes carried by AP news agency.

Meanwhile, US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters he believed dialogue between the two allies would be more effective than an investigation.

“We believe we have an open line and good communication [with Germany],” he said.

Some German lawmakers have also called for Edward Snowden to be invited to Berlin to testify in parliamentary inquiry into NSA surveillance.

However, German government has opposed this, fearing it would damage bilateral ties.

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Wolfgang Bosbach, a political ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, phoned her during a celebrity version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, hoping she could answer a question – but in vain.

Twice Wolfgang Bosbach called during RTL’s show, but all he got was the chancellor’s voicemail.

Thwarted by Angela Merkel’s silence he bowed out, winning 125,000 euros. The question was about an East German washing machine.

Wolfgang Bosbach phoned Angela Merkel during a celebrity version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Wolfgang Bosbach phoned Angela Merkel during a celebrity version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Angela Merkel grew up in the former communist East Germany.

Wolfgang Bosbach, a member of Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), was asked why the East German WM66 washing machine was legendary.

The correct answer was that many owners also used it to stew fruit.

When asked if he wanted to phone a friend, Wolfgang Bosbach suggested the chancellor, explaining that “she’s always happy to see me and hear my voice”.

A correct answer from Angela Merkel would have won him 500,000 euros to spend on good causes.

At the end of the show he received a text back from Angela Merkel saying: “Ok whatever it was, warm greetings from am.”

Wolfgang Bosbach is currently deputy chairman of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU parliamentary group. He is a specialist in German domestic policy and legal affairs. He joined the CDU in 1972.

In her weekly podcast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proposed the creation of a European communications network to help improve data protection.

The network would avoid emails and other data automatically passing through the US.

Angela Merkel said she would raise the issue on Wednesday with French President Francois Hollande.

Revelations of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have prompted huge concern in Europe.

Disclosures by Edward Snowden suggested even the mobile phones of US allies, such as Angela Merkel, had been monitored by American spies.

Angela Merkel has proposed the creation of a European communications network to help improve data protection

Angela Merkel has proposed the creation of a European communications network to help improve data protection

Classified NSA documents revealed that large amounts of personal data are collected from the internet by US and British surveillance.

Angela Merkel criticized the fact that Facebook and Google can be based in countries with low levels of data protection while carrying out business in nations that offer more rigorous safeguards.

“Above all, we’ll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn’t have to send emails and other information across the Atlantic,” she said.

“Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe.”

There was no doubt that Europe had to do more in the realm of data protection, Angela Merkel said.

A French official was quoted by Reuters as saying that the government in Paris planned to take up the German initiative.

Germany has been trying to persuade Washington to agree to a “no-spy” agreement but without success.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said a US official’s apparent insult of the EU’s efforts to mediate in the Ukraine crisis is “totally unacceptable”.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State Victoria Nuland has apologized after a voice resembling hers used a graphic swear word in a conversation said to be with the US ambassador to Ukraine.

A recording of the apparently bugged conversation was posted online, with the US hinting at Russia’s involvement.

The EU and the US are involved in talks to end months of unrest in Ukraine.

After meeting Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev, Victoria Nuland said she would not make a public statement on the matter.

“I will not comment on a private diplomatic conversation,” she told reporters.

Mass anti-government protests erupted in Ukraine in late November after President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a far-reaching association and trade agreement with the EU – under heavy pressure from Moscow.

After meeting Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev, Victoria Nuland said she would not make a public statement on the matter

After meeting Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev, Victoria Nuland said she would not make a public statement on the matter

Russia has been widely accused of using its economic clout to persuade Viktor Yanukovych not to pursue closer ties with Brussels.

Russia has itself accused Washington and the EU of meddling in Ukraine.

German spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Angela Merkel fully supported the work EU policy chief Catherine Ashton had been doing to find a solution to the crisis.

“The chancellor finds these remarks totally unacceptable and wants to emphasize that Mrs. Ashton is doing an outstanding job,” Christiane Wirtz said.

The alleged conversation between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, appeared on YouTube on Thursday.

The 4min 10sec video was entitled “Maidan’s puppets” in Russian – a reference to the square in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where pro-EU protests have been held for months. A transcription of the whole conversation was also posted in Russian.

At one point, the female speaker mentions the UN and its attempts to find a solution to the Ukraine stand-off.

She says: “So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it and you know…” she then uses the swear word about the EU.

During an interview with a German television, President Barack Obama has said he will not let controversial NSA surveillance undermine Washington’s ties with Germany.

Speaking to Germany’s ZDF TV, Barack Obama indicated that US bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been a mistake and would not happen again.

After the row broke out last year, Angela Merkel accused the US of an unacceptable breach of trust.

On Friday, Barack Obama ordered curbs on how intelligence was being collected.

On Saturday, he told ZDF: “I don’t need and don’t want to harm that (US-German) relationship by a surveillance mechanism that somehow would impede the kind of communication and trust that we have.”

Speaking to Germany's ZDF TV, Barack Obama indicated that US bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone had been a mistake and would not happen again

Speaking to Germany’s ZDF TV, Barack Obama indicated that US bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been a mistake and would not happen again

“As long as I’m president of the United States, the chancellor of Germany will not have to worry about this.”

Barack Obama added the US intelligence services, like all others, would continue to be interested in what world governments’ intentions were.

“There is no point in having an intelligence service if you are restricted to the things that you can read in the New York Times or Der Spiegel,” he said.

“The truth of the matter is that by definition the job of intelligence is to find out: Well, what are folks thinking? What are they doing?”

Barack Obama said he and Chancellor Angela Merkel might not always be of the same opinion but that was not a “reason to wiretap”.

The interview was broadcast a day after Barack Obama ordered restrictions on the use of bulk data collected by US intelligence agencies, saying civil liberties must be respected.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made her first public appearance since fracturing her pelvis in a skiing accident.

Angela Merkel, 59, joined a group of children on Tuesday for a carol singing session. Although she was on crutches and limping slightly, Angela Merkel appeared to be in good spirits as she sang along.

The group of children were dressed in festive costumes and one young girl held up a song sheet for Angela Merkel to read from because she could not do so herself.

Angela Merkel has made her first public appearance since fracturing her pelvis in a skiing accident

Angela Merkel has made her first public appearance since fracturing her pelvis in a skiing accident

Angela Merkel injured herself when she fell during a cross-country skiing accident in the alpine region in Engadin, Switzerland earlier this week.

On Monday government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Chancellor Angela Merkel would be out of action for the next three weeks.

Steffen Seibert explained that Angela Merkel initially thought that she had suffered bruising but a doctor’s examination revealed a partial fracture to the left interior pelvic ring. She was told that the injury would require “lots of lying down”.

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Angela Merkel has fractured a bone in her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident in Switzerland, her spokesman says.

The German chancellor will have to remain lying down as much as possible in the next three weeks and several visits will be cancelled, Steffen Seibert said.

Angela Merkel also suffered severe bruising in the accident, in the Alpine Engadine region of eastern Switzerland.

She was not skiing fast at the time, the spokesman added.

He called the injury “severe bruising linked with a partial fracture on the left, rear part of the pelvis”.

Angela Merkel has fractured a bone in her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident in Switzerland

Angela Merkel has fractured a bone in her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident in Switzerland

Immediately after the accident, during the Christmas holiday in December, Angela Merkel was not aware that part of her pelvis had been fractured, the spokesman said.

He did not give details about how it happened. She was skiing near the resort of St Moritz.

Angela Merkel still intends to chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday – the first gathering of all her coalition ministers. She is now walking with the aid of crutches.But mostly she will be working from home.

Angela Merkel has cancelled a trip to Poland this week and will not receive Luxembourg’s new PM Xavier Bettel in Berlin, the spokesman said.

New details of people and institutions targeted by the US and UK surveillance have been published by The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel.

The papers say that the list of around 1,000 targets includes a EU commissioner, humanitarian organizations and an Israeli PM.

The secret documents were leaked by Edward Snowden, now a fugitive in Russia.

They suggest over 60 countries were targets of the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ.

Edward Snowden left the US in late May, taking a large cache of top secret documents with him

Edward Snowden left the US in late May, taking a large cache of top secret documents with him

The reports are likely to spark more international concern about the surveillance operations carried out by the US and the UK.

News that the National Security Agency (NSA) had monitored the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel triggered a diplomatic row between Berlin and Washington in October.

The New York Times that GCHQ monitored the communications of foreign leaders – including African heads of state and sometimes their family members – and directors of UN and other relief programmes.

The paper reports that the emails of Israeli officials were monitored, including one listed as “Israeli prime minister”. The PM at the time, 2009, was Ehud Olmert.

The Guardian wrote that GCHQ targeted the UN development programme, UNICEF, German government buildings and the EU Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia.