LORIENT  -French President Francois Hollande told the United States on Monday to immediately cease spying on European institutions, after reports of covert US surveillance of EU diplomatic missions.

“We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,” Hollande told journalists during a visit to the western city of Lorient. “We ask that this immediately stop.” Hollande said “enough elements have already been gathered for us to ask for explanations” from Washington about the spying allegations.

“There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States,” Hollande told journalists. It was an apparent reference to sensitive trade talks which are set to start between the US and the EU on creating the world’s largest free trade zone.

US President Barack Obama on Monday said he would fully inform European allies angry over allegations Washington had bugged their offices, once he had all the facts. “When we have an answer, we will make sure to provide all the information that our allies want,” Obama said at a press conference in Tanzania. Obama said the United States will “take a look at this article and figure out what they may or not be talking about. What we will do is communicate with our allies appropriately.” Whilst stopping short of acknowledging any spying by the US, he suggested all parties systematically snoop on either other.

Meanwhile, Lithuania, which took over the rotating EU presidency on Monday, said recent allegations that Washington had bugged EU offices must not harm bilateral ties amid landmark free trade talks.  “It is understandable that the information that recently emerged raised concern,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP.

“However (...) I don’t think that it is very productive to discuss media reports or classified documents that nobody has seen,” he said in the capital Vilnius. “Both strong political and economic EU-US ties must not be damaged.”

John Kerry promised to probe the allegations but said information-gathering was “not unusual” in int’l affairs. “Lady Ashton did indeed raise it with me today and we agreed to stay in touch. I agreed to find out exactly what the situation is and I will get back to her,” Kerry told reporters.

Kerry said that, due to an intense few days of Middle East peace negotiations before coming to Brunei on Monday, he was unaware of the details of the allegations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) bugged European offices and embassies. “(But) I will say that every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs, of national security, undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that,” he said.

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said a long-awaited deal between the European Union and the United States could be in jeopardy, while Germany’s justice minister likened the alleged espionage to spying on Cold War enemies. Reding warned that talks to create what would be the world’s biggest free trade area could be jeopardised if the bugging allegations proved true.

“We can’t negotiate a large trans-Atlantic market if there is any doubt that our partners are bugging the offices of European negotiators,” Reding said at a meeting in Luxembourg, her spokesperson told AFP. The talks were only launched last month.European Parliament president Martin Schulz said in a statement he was “deeply worried and shocked” by the reports. “If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations.” Germany expressed shock Monday over reports of US spying on European institutions and said it had told Washington that it must restore trust in the wake of the damaging allegations.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Emma Bonino expressed confidence on Monday that the United States would provide the necessary details and assurances regarding reports of US spying on European institutions.

Meanwhile, the European Union was carrying out a full security sweep of all its premises world-wide following claims that the United States spied on its offices in New York and Washington, a European Commission spokeswoman said on Monday. “In light of the allegations, (European Commission chief Jose Manuel) Barroso has instructed the competent Commission services to proceed to a comprehensive ad hoc security sweep and check,” the spokeswoman, Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, said.

She said that all EU offices were “regularly swept” for bugs.