Responding to reports that the United States has been spying on the European Union, President Obama on Monday suggested that every nation engages in that kind of covert intelligence gathering.
"They're going to be trying to understand the world better and what's going on in world capitals around the world, from sources that aren't available through the New York Times or NBC News," Mr. Obama said during a press conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he stopped on the last leg of his seven-day trip to Africa.
"I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders," he said.
Mr. Obama stressed that European nations remain "some of the closest allies that we have in the world" and that he maintains close, constructive relationships with European leaders.
"I'm the end user of this kind of intelligence," he said. "And if I want to know what Chancellor Merkel is thinking, I will call Chancellor Merkel."
He added, "Ultimately, we work so closely together there's almost no information that's not shared between our various countries."
The allegations that the National Security Agency planted bugs in EU diplomatic offices, reported by the German publication Der Spiegel, stem from leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden. European officials have slammed the U.S. for the alleged spying, with one German official accusing the U.S. of using "Cold War" tactics.
Mr. Obama once again acknowledged Monday that the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, where Snowden has apparently been stuck in legal limbo since flying out of Hong Kong and landing in the Moscow airport.
"We are hopeful the Russian government makes decisions based on the normal procedures regarding international travel," Mr. Obama said, noting that Snowden traveled there without a valid passport.
Mr. Obama also addressed theagainst President Mohammed Morsi, noting that the U.S. is primarily interested in protecting its embassies and consulates. The United States' second priority, he said, is ensuring that all parties involved remain peaceful.
"Although we have not seen the kind of violence that many had feared so far, the potential remains there and everyone has to show restraint," he said, remarking on the many reports of women being assaulted. "Assaulting women does not quality as peaceful protests," he said.
However, protests alone will not influence the United States' engagement with Egypt, the president said.
U.S. support, he said, is "based on are they, in fact, following rule of law and following democratic procedures," such as listening to the opposition, maintaining a free press and freedom of assembly, and conducting free elections.
"We don't make those decisions just by counting the number of heads in a protest march," he said.