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Israel eases tensions with US over spying allegations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved yesterday to avoid friction with the United States over allegations it spied on Israeli leaders, slapping down demands in his cabinet to press Washington for redress.

Several Israeli cabinet members and politicians latched onto the reported US espionage as an opportunity to call on Washington to free jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

The allegations of US spying on Israelis emerged on Friday.

They were based on documents leaked by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced to a life term in 1987 in the United States for spying for Israel.

A succession of US presidents have spurned Israeli calls for his pardon. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz demanded a US commitment to stop the espionage and release Pollard immediately.

He said: "The United States is systematically spying against Israel's political and security leadership."

Uzi Landau, the tourism minister, who told reporters: "If there was ever a better time to bring Pollard here, it is now."

But Mr Netanyahu, attempting to calm the clamour, said in public remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel didn't need "any special occasion" in order to discuss Pollard's case with Washington. He added that he had constantly raised the issue at the White House.

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