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French ministers flock to US despite 'unacceptable' NSA phone-tap revelations

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US ambassador to France Jane Hartley leaves a meeting with French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius following the WikiLeaks revelations of US spying Reuters/Charles Platiau

French ministers seemed keen to resume business as usual with the US on Thursday, even though Paris the day before declared American wiretaps on President François Hollande and others "unacceptable". Despite WikiLeaks' revelation of the snooping, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron continued his visit to the US, while promising to raise the question in Washington.


"Obviously, I'll speak to my interlocutors about it when I'm in Washington," Macron told reporters in New York, where he was for the French Touch Conference to promote the country's technology exports.

He called for a "tough but proportionate" response ... and that did not include packing his bags and going home.

Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll, who as government spokesperson on Wednesday called the espionnage "unacceptable between allies", arrives in the States on Friday.

And Environment Minister Ségolène Royal and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will be in New York on 4 July when a replica of General Lafayette's frigate Hermione visits the city - the end of a trans-Atlantic voyage to celebrate Franco-American entente.

Macron refused to comment on Tuesday evening's tweet by France's ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, which was even more laconic.

"Every diplomat lives with the certainty that their communications are listened to, and not by just one country. Real world," he tweeted.

That was for Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius to deal with he told journalists.

US officials vowed there was no spying going on now.

"Let me just be very, very clear ... we are not targeting President Hollande, we will not target friends like President Hollande," said US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"And we don't conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is some very specific and validated national security purpose."

The French government's response was criticised by right-wing former prime minister François Fillon on Thursday.

He, like some on the hard left and the far right, called for negotiations on the trans-Atlantic trade treaty to be suspended.

"We are obliged to say that it's not very good but at the same time we know it will carry on," commented centre-right MP and former defence minister Hervé Morin.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange also called on France to react more strongly, proposing a parliamentary inquiry and legal action.

And, he added, there are more politically significant revelations to come.

"This is the beginning of a series and I believe the most important of the material is still to come," he said, speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he is holed up.