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Amid new spy scandal, Kerry calls U.S. and Germany 'great friends'

Kerry & Merkel
Kerry & Merkel

VIENNA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, standing alongside Germany's foreign minister, on Sunday stressed the strategic importance of relations between the two countries, which have been battered by new allegations of U.S. spying on Berlin.

"Let me emphasize the relationship between the United States and Germany is a strategic one," Kerry said in Vienna on the sidelines of nuclear talks with Iran. "We have enormous political cooperation and we are great friends."

Kerry, appearing alongside Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, did not address the latest spy scandal, though his remarks appeared aimed at the subject.

"We will continue to work together in the kind of spirit we exhibited today in a very thorough discussion," Kerry said, adding that he wished Germany well in its World Cup soccer final against Argentina on Sunday.

Steinmeier also spoke of the importance of U.S.-German cooperation in working to resolve the conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and the Iran nuclear standoff.

"Ties between the United States and Germany are necessary and essential for both of us," Steinmeier said. "We want to work on reviving this relationship, on a foundation of trust and mutual respect."

He said this applied to "all the difficulties that have arisen in our bilateral relations in recent weeks."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that new allegations of U.S. spying showed Berlin and Washington were completely at odds over how they viewed the role of intelligence, and she hoped German action would persuade the United States not to spy on partners.

Her comments to German broadcaster ZDF came just days after her government told the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country, in a dramatic display of anger after German officials unearthed two suspected spies.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Fredrik Dahl, writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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