Rome, July 2: Reports that the US spied on the European Union and Italian diplomats must be verified but if proved to be true, they will "compromise" bilateral ties, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro has said.
"If we are allies, it is unacceptable that someone inside the relationship acts as the Soviet Union did with its satellites," Mauro told La Republica TV in a reference to the Cold War era.
"But our institutions must authenticate the information and the US's explanations. Perhaps for the first time we'll see if such a thing as European foreign policy exists," he said.
"Europe tends to grow up when it has its back to the wall."
Italy's Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said on Monday that Rome has asked the US for clarification on the so-called "Datagate" claims, which she called "a thorny affair".
The claims were reported by the Guardian newspaper and Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, citing top secret US National Security Agency documents, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey, the Guardian reported.
Spying methods used against each target range from bugs implanted in electronic communications gear to taps into cables to the collection of transmission with specialized antenna, the Guardian said, citing the leaked documents.
The new disclosures come at a time when there is already considerable anger across the EU over earlier evidence provided by Snowden of NSA eavesdropping on America's European allies.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday downplayed the latest allegations, saying that it was "not unusual" for countries to collect information to protect their national security.
The EU has demanded that the US explain the claims that Washington is spying on the group, saying that, if true, the alleged surveillance was "shocking".