The British ambassador in Berlin has been called in for a meeting at the German foreign ministry to explain allegations that Britain has set up a spying operation in its embassy building.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the German foreign office said the head of its Europe division “had asked for a statement in response to the current reports in the British media and pointed out that intercepting communication from within diplomatic buildings represented a violation of international law”.

Only last week, the US ambassador summoned for a meeting with the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle – a procedure normally reserved for more “problematic” nations such as Iran.

The Independent published a report on Tuesday morning raising the possibility that Britain has established a “spy nest” in the German capital similar to the one thought to operate from the top floor of the US embassy.

Documents seen by the paper’s reporters allegedly show a small number of intelligence personnel operating in the embassy under diplomatic cover, their true mission apparently unknown to other staff.

The report also references aerial photographs of the embassy showing a white, tent-like structure, which bears a resemblance to those used to intercept East German and Soviet communications during the cold war.

The British embassy in Berlin, opened in 2000, is on Wilhelmstrasse, just off the Unter den Linden boulevard, and only a few hundred metres from the US embassy.

Britain’s ambassador in Berlin, Simon McDonald, is a former foreign policy adviser to Gordon Brown. He was British ambassador in Israel from 2003 until 2006.

The British embassy’s press officer confirmed that the meeting between McDonald and the acting head of the German foreign ministry’s European section had taken place, but refused to comment further.

source: Guardian UK