BERLIN, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday that he doesn't want to harm the friendly relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but made clear the U.S. intelligence agencies will not stop collecting data on government intentions of other countries.
In an exclusive interview with Germany's ZDF public TV broadcast on Saturday night, Obama said he has established a relationship of friendship and trust with Merkel and doesn't need and want to harm that relationship with a surveillance program that somehow would impede the communication and trust that they have.
"As long as I'm president of the United States, the chancellor of Germany will not have to worry about this," Obama noted, saying disagreements on foreign policy were no reason for wiretapping.
Relations between Germany and the United States have been strained by revelations of U.S. mass surveillance of online and photo data, especially the allegations about U.S. tapping of Merkel's mobile phone.
Obama ackownoldged that there have been times where surveillance has been abused in the Untied States.
However, he made clear that his government will continue its intelligence work. "Now, as I said in the speech, our intelligence agencies, like German intelligence agencies, and every intelligence agency out there, will continue to be interested in the government intentions of countries around the world. That's not going to change."
Obama offered a series of changes to the National Security Agency (NSA)'s controversial surveillance practices on Friday, vowing to better protect privacy of foreign citizens and not to monitor the communications of heads of state and government of close friends and allies.
The initial responses to his speech in Germany have been skeptical.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told media that Obama has "made first steps" with his plan to pull back some of the U.S. surveillance programs. However, the lost trust could only be rebuilt by signing a legally binding agreement that protects the data of all citizens, he said.
Germany's future transatlantic coordinator, Philipp Missfelder, also voiced support for a German-U.S. no-spy deal, saying Obama's planned reforms require a new legal basis which could be a very tough process.
Wolfgang Bosbach, chairman of the German parliament's committee for interior affairs, told media he has little hope that something will change in the U.S. snooping practices. "I am afraid that Americans will continue to collect data, also from allies."
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