Obama asks Germans for 'benefit of the doubt' on spying
"There's no doubt that the Snowden revelations damaged impressions of Germans with respect to the U.S. government,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama on Monday acknowledged that revelations about the U.S.’s intelligence gathering efforts have hindered relations with Germany.

"There's no doubt that the Snowden revelations damaged impressions of Germans with respect to the U.S. government and our intelligence cooperation,” Obama said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A row was ignited between the two countries when former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed previously classified details about the U.S.’s international mass data collection programs, and said U.S. intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on the German chancellor’s personal communications.

"Occasionally, I would like the German people to give us the benefit of the doubt, given our history, as opposed to assuming the worst, assuming we have been consistently your strong partners and that we share a common set of values,” Obama said.

Many Germans, including Merkel, are particularly concerned by allegations of privacy violations following a long history of state spying by the East Germany’s Stasi intelligence service during the Cold War.

Despite her concerns, Merkel said that U.S. institutions "have provided us and still continue to provide us with a lot of very significant, very important information that is also integral to our security, and we don't want to do without this.”

"If we look at the sheer dimension of the terrorist threat, we are more than aware of the fact that we need to work together very closely,” the chancellor added.

Obama: Iran needs to 'make a decision' on nuclear deal

Obama also said that Iran has to decide about a nuclear deal with world powers as an impending deadline nears.

"The issues now are sufficiently narrowed and sufficiently clarified, where we're at a point where they need to make a decision," Obama said.

He added that the P5+1 group of world powers, supported by a coalition of countries, "are presenting to them a deal that allows them to have peaceful nuclear power but gives us the absolute assurance that is verifiable that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, forbidding the use of nuclear weapons in Oct. 2003, which Obama said should allow Iranian negotiators to reach an agreement.

"If that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal. They should be able to get to yes,” Obama said, referring to the ruling. "But we don't know if that's going to happen. They have their hard-liners, they have their politics.”

Negotiators from the P5+1 group of world powers and Iran have a little more than a month to finalize a political framework agreement ahead of an end of June deadline for a final accord.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come out hard against a prospective deal with the Islamic Republic, warning that any agreement would be used by Tehran to covertly acquire a nuclear weapon.

The issue has driven a wedge between Washington and Tel Aviv with Netanyahu set to address a joint session of Congress March 3 where he is expected to urge American lawmakers to implement new sanctions on Iran – a move opposed by the Obama administration.

"I don't want to be coy. The prime minister and I have a very real difference around Iran's sanctions,” Obama said. "Angela agrees with me, and David Cameron agrees with me, and the others who are a member of the negotiations agree that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they're about to be completed.”

Obama has said that he would not meet with Netanyahu when he comes to Washington, citing the proximity to Israel’s March 17 elections.

"As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election, she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House, and I suspect she wouldn't have asked for one,” Obama said as his comment elicited laughter.

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Last Modified: 2015-02-10 08:12:51
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