U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he didn't know the details of the allegations, but tried to downplay them, maintaining that many nations undertake various activities to protect their national interests. He failed to quell the outrage from allies, including France, Germany and Italy.
"We cannot accept this kind of behavior from partners and allies," Hollande said on French television on Monday.
He insisted the U.S. explain its practices and end the eavesdropping immediately. And he issued a veiled threat that France would dig in its heels on sensitive negotiations to ink a free-trade deal that would link countries that make up nearly half of the global economy. The deal would likely serve as a model for all future such agreements worldwide.
"We can only have negotiations, transactions, in all areas, once we have obtained these guarantees for France, but that goes for the whole European Union and I would say for all partners of the United States," he said.
Europe's outage was triggered by a Sunday report by German news weekly Der Spiegel that the U.S. National Security Agency bugged diplomats from friendly nations — such as the EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels. The report was partly based on an ongoing series of revelations of U.S. eavesdropping leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In a sign of the distrust the report had sowed, the German government launched a review of its secure government communications network and the EU's executive, the European Commission, ordered "a comprehensive ad hoc security sweep."
"Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin. "We're not in the Cold War anymore."
Germany has been among the European countries most anxious to reach a trade deal with the U.S., and it will likely try to strike a careful balance in its criticism of Washington.