LONDON (Reuters) - The United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders according to classified documents leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, Britain's Guardian newspaper said on Thursday.

Phone numbers were passed on to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) by an official in another government department, according to the documents, the Guardian said on its website.

It added that staff in the White House, State Department and the Pentagon were urged to share the contact details of foreign politicians.

"We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations," a White House spokeswoman said, reacting to the report.

The revelations come after Germany demanded answers from Washington over allegations Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone was bugged, the worst spat between the two countries in a decade.

The White House did not deny the bugging, saying only it would not happen in future.

"In one recent case, a U.S. official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders," reads an excerpt from a confidential memo dated October 2006 which was quoted by the Guardian.

The identities of the politicians in question were not revealed.

The revelations in the center-left Guardian suggested that the bugging of world leaders could be more widespread than originally thought, with the issue set to overshadow an EU summit in Brussels.

(Reporting By Costas Pitas; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Barry Moody and Eric Walsh)

 

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