German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin. Picture: Thomas Peter

Berlin -

German Federal Prosecutor General Harald Range is to launch a probe into claims that the US intelligence service eavesdropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone conversations.

Range told a closed session of the German parliamentary justice committee on Wednesday of his decision to undertake the investigation into the claims about the activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) in Germany, officials told dpa.

The allegations about tapping Merkel's phone emerged from documents released by former US intelligence officer Edward Snowden and formed part of claims about far-reaching surveillance by the NSA of German and European Union institutions as well as the wider population.

Last year's revelations about the tapping of Merkel's mobile phone lead to considerable strains in the relations between Berlin and Washington.

The NSA is also believed to have eavesdropped on the phone of Merkel's predecessor, the Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who opposed the US war in Iraq and later forged close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow's state energy giant Gazprom.

The NSA activities are a particular sensitive issue in Germany because of the role played in the nation's past by secret police first under Hitler and then under the East German Communist regime. - Sapa-dpa