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US VP calls Brazil president in bid to smooth spying tensions

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (AFP)
The online news portal of TV5

BRASILIA -- US Vice President Joe Biden called Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Friday to try to smooth tensions caused by allegations that the United States spied on Brazilian Internet communications, Rousseff's office said.

Latin America's largest nation has said Washington's explanations about the National Security Agency's secret surveillance programs have been unsatisfactory.

"He lamented the negative repercussions in Brazil and reiterated the US government's willingness to provide more information on the matter," Rousseff's communications minister, Helena Chagas, told reporters after the 25-minute telephone call.

Biden repeated an invitation for Brazil to send a delegation to the United States to obtain more technical and political details on the case, Chagas said. She said Brazil accepted the proposal but has not decided who will go or when.

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported earlier this month the NSA targeted Latin American countries with spying programs that can monitor billions of emails and phone calls for suspicious activity, citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a fugitive former US intelligence contractor.

Latin American countries fumed at what they considered a violation of their sovereignty and demanded explanations and an apology.

The American ambassador in Brazil, Thomas Shannon, acknowledged that the United States collects large amounts of data on email traffic but does not access the content of messages or conduct the monitoring on Brazilian territory. He said the reports did not paint an accurate picture of US information gathering.

In Brazil, the United States' largest trading partner in South America, angry senators questioned a state visit Rousseff plans to make to Washington in October and a billion-dollar purchase of US-made fighter jets Brazil has been considering.

Rousseff told Biden her visit is still on and she hoped the spying matter will be cleared up by then, Chagas said.

"The privacy of citizens and the sovereignty of countries cannot be infringed in the name of security," Rousseff said to Biden, according to her minister.