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Colombia demands explanation on NSA spying allegations

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia expressed concern early on Wednesday after revelations the United States had spied on the Andean nation, its closest military ally in Latin America, and called for an explanation.

In a brief statement at midnight, Colombia's foreign ministry said it "registered its concern" that there had been an "unauthorized data collection program" and asked that the U.S. government give an account of its actions through its embassy in Bogota.

A leading Brazilian newspaper reported on Tuesday that the U.S. National Security Agency targeted most Latin American countries with spying programs that monitored Internet traffic, especially in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.

Citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor, O Globo newspaper said the NSA programs went beyond military affairs in the region to what it termed "commercial secrets," including oil and energy.

Colombia is considered a top military and diplomatic ally in the region following a decade of joint operations against Marxist rebels and drug trafficking gangs that have caused harm to both countries' economies.

"In rejecting the acts of espionage that violate people's rights and intimacy as well as the international conventions on telecommunication, Colombia requests the corresponding explanations from the United States government through its ambassador to Colombia," the foreign ministry said in the statement.

Regional leaders called for a tough response to the alleged espionage that O Globo said included a satellite monitoring stations based in Brazil's capital.

Snowden is thought to be negotiating his exit from a transit area in a Moscow airport's international area. He has been offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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