Breaking its silence with a fury rare in transatlantic diplomacy, the U.S. Embassy on Friday accused France's interior minister of lying about this week's spy scandal.
In its first public comment on the tiff, the U.S. Embassy leveled a highly unusual attack on Interior Minister Charles Pasqua's suggestion that the U.S. side had leaked the information, calling the suggestion "neither true nor credible."
The embassy also said Pasqua had misrepresented a confidential conversation he had with U.S. Ambassador Pamela Harriman but refused to give details of the inaccuracy.
The leaks enabled the respected newspaper Le Monde to reveal Wednesday that France had accused five Americans of political and economic spying and had asked Washington to call them home.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department said the five would complete their regular tours of duty.
"On our part, there was no desire for publicity," Pasqua was quoted as saying during a trip to Africa. "All this can be blamed on the United States' delay in resolving the affair."