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Brazil's Rousseff Blasts NSA Spying Program During Speech At United Nations

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: The Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff speaks at the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly on September 24, 2013 in New York City. This year's U.N. diplomacy session, the 68th General Assembly, is likely to be dominated by Syria's civil war and Iran's suspected nuclear ambitions.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: The Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff speaks at the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly on September 24, 2013 in New York City. This year's U.N. diplomacy session, the 68th General Assembly, is likely to be dominated by Syria's civil war and Iran's suspected nuclear ambitions. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff blasted the United States during the opening speech of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, calling an American spy program that has targeted her nation's government and private citizens “illegal” and saying it intruded on her country’s national sovereignty.

Rousseff, who recently postponed an upcoming state visit to Washington in protest of the scandal, had harsh words for the Obama administration, calling the program a breach of trust between two friendly nations and downplaying U.S. assertions that the program was in place to fight international terrorism.

“The argument that the illegally intercepted information is an effort to fight terrorism in unacceptable,” Rousseff said. “Brazil knows how to protect itself.”

The National Security Agency program, which was revealed after former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked classified documents, showed that the U.S. spy agency had intercepted messages between Rousseff and her top aides as well as hacking the computer network of Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras.

Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of countries is a breach of international law.

- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

While international anger over the NSA program has mainly erupted in the privacy-protective states in Europe, Rousseff has taken the issue up in Latin America. Unlike her counterpart, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose campaign was spied on by the NSA, Rousseff has not put diplomatic niceties ahead of her country’s communication security.

“Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of countries is a breach of international law,” she said.

Rousseff’s condemnation of the NSA program while in front of the United Nations’ delegation – following her U.S. trip postponement – continues the diplomatic nadir that the U.S. finds itself in with Brazil and other Latin American nations.

The Obama administration, which is currently in the throes of attempting to gain support at home and abroad for action in Syria, has been playing catch-up over the last few weeks with affairs in the Western Hemipshere. Vice President Joe Biden visited Mexico last week to open talks on expanding trade between the U.S. and its third largest trading partner, and Obama appealed to Rousseff to continue with her plans to visit the U.S.

"The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement last week.

Rousseff, however, demanded a public apology from Obama for the spying – which she didn't get.

The White House attempted to mask Rousseff’s postponement as only a minor glitch in the visit of arguably Latin America’s most powerful leader.

Carney said that the “United States and Brazil enjoy a strategic partnership” and that the invitation for a state visit – the first of Obama’s second term – reflects the importance of Brazil as a global geopolitical and economic power.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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