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Netanyahu says any U.S. spying on Israel unacceptable

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem December 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem December 22, 2013. REUTERS/Gali Tibbon/Pool

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on allegations the United States had spied on Israel's leaders, said on Monday such activity was unacceptable and had no place in the allies' close relationship.

Documents leaked on Friday by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ had in 2009 targeted an email address listed as belonging to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and monitored emails of senior defense officials.

"With regard to things published in the past few days, I have asked for an examination of the matter," Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks, in a clear reference to the alleged espionage.

He did not elaborate on whether Israel intended to ask Washington for clarifications.

"In the close ties between Israel and the United States, there are things that must not be done and that are not acceptable to us," Netanyahu said, speaking to legislators from his right-wing Likud party.

On Sunday, several Israeli cabinet members and lawmakers said disclosure of U.S. spying on Israel was an opportunity to press Washington to free jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced to a life term in 1987 in the United States for spying for Israel. A succession of U.S. presidents have spurned Israeli calls for his pardon.

In what appeared to be an attempt to calm the clamor, Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel had constantly sought Pollard's release and did not need any "special occasion" to discuss his case with Washington.

Israeli Officials have played down the importance of any information the United States may have gleaned from its alleged espionage activities.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel had always assumed that even its allies spied on it. A statement issued by Olmert's office, said the reports, if accurate, referred to a public email address and that chances that any security or intelligence damage had been caused were minuscule.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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