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|Friday, May 11, 2001, updated at 08:12(GMT+8)|
EU MPs Cut Short US Trip over Spy NetworkEuropean Union (EU) lawmakers investigating spy network charges against the U.S. said Thursday they were cutting short a fact-finding trip to Washington after Bush administration officials refused to meet with them.
Investigation committee chairman Carlos Coelho said his delegation was "concerned and dismayed" that scheduled meetings at the U.S. State and Commerce departments "were canceled at the last minute without a satisfactory explanation."
He also said the committee was "very disappointed" that the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) refused a meeting "in spite of the advanced preparations that had been made."
"As a result we are cutting short our visit to Washington and returning to Europe immediately," he said in a statement.
The snub was likely to add to strains on relations between U.S. President George W. Bush and his European allies.
Since last September, Coelho's committee -- made up of members of the European Parliament -- has been investigating charges that secrets gleaned by the Echelon electronic eavesdropping network are used to benefit U.S. companies.
Echelon is reputedly run by the NSA and its equivalent agencies in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Set up at the beginning of the Cold War for intelligence-gathering, it now is capable of intercepting billions of telephone calls, fax transmissions and e-mails.
U.S. officials have never publicly confirmed the existence of the Echelon network and deny that the United States engages in industrial espionage.
However, in interviews last year, former CIA director James Woolsey acknowledged the United States collects information on European companies. But he insisted it did so only in cases when companies were suspected of violating U.N. or U.S. sanctions, of offering bribes to win contracts, or to keep tabs on technologies that have civilian and military applications.
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