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Israel Spying Spat: Netanyahu's Office Denies Nuke Talks Snooping

Israel did not snoop on closed-door talks about Iran's nuclear program involving the U.S., an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says.
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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel did not snoop on closed-door talks over Iran's nuclear program involving the U.S., a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Tuesday, denying an earlier report.

On Monday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. officials learned of the spying — which it said was part of Netanyahu's effort to derail a deal on Tehran's nuclear program — when American intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials. Some of Israel's information came from French sources, the newspaper reported.

U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment, but Netanyahu's office slammed the report on Tuesday.

"These allegations are utterly false," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told NBC News. "The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel's other allies."

The U.S. and five other powers are reconvening negotiations this week to try to break the deadlock over Tehran's atomic research program and the lifting of sanctions before a March 31 deadline. Netanyahu has been vehemently opposed to a deal.

The White House did not comment on Tuesday. But the Obama administration has expressed concern that Israel has been selectively leaking details of the talks to drum up congressional criticism in efforts to scuttle a deal. The State Department has stopped giving Israel intelligence briefings on the negotiations.

Despite official denials on both sides, it is widely known that the U.S. and Israel collect intelligence on each other while also cooperating on counter-terrorism and other security issues.


— Paul Goldman and F. Brinley Bruton

Reuters contributed to this report