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US watch on banks challenged

BRUSSELS — European lawmakers called Wednesday for the suspension of an agreement that grants US authorities access to bank data for terror-related investigations, marking a sharp official rebuke of Washington’s surveillance programs.

The European Parliament’s resolution, adopted in a 280 to 254 vote with 30 abstentions, is not binding. The agreement could only be suspended by a two-thirds majority of the 28-nation bloc’s member states.

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The resolution followed leaks by Edward Snowden alleging the US National Security Agency targeted the Belgium-based system overseeing international bank transfers, known as SWIFT.

The measure’s opponents said canceling the agreement would jeopardize a powerful law enforcement tool that allows investigators to analyze money flows related to terrorist activities. Supporters maintained the alleged spying violated the so-called Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) agreement and thereby voided it.

The European Commission said it will press US authorities again for a complete explanation.

“We have no indications that the TFTP Agreement has been violated, but we are still waiting for additional written assurances ,’’ EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said.

But EU lawmakers from the center-left parties contend the agreement must be suspended until the United States brings credible proof to rebut the allegations.

“The reports of the NSA tapping into the SWIFT data mean that there are now serious doubts that this agreement offers any real legal guarantees and safeguards for EU citizens’ personal data,’’ European Socialists and Democrats lawmaker Claude Moraes said.

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