The Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that the US quietly withdrew two employees at the request of the Spanish government.

Spain has fired two U.S. Embassy employees after allegations they tried to bribe Spanish intelligence officers in exchange for secrets.

Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said on Thursday that Spain had lodged a complaint with the United States but that the incident would not affect diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“Spain and the United States are friends, allies and partners,” she told reporters. “If there are issues that may affect us, they will be discussed and dealt with, but this does not affect the relationships we have.”

The newspaper El Pais reported that two unnamed embassy officials were discreetly removed at Madrid’s request after an investigation revealed they had received information from Spanish intelligence agents for a “large sum.”

Robles confirmed that a judicial investigation was investigating “irregular behavior” at the Spanish intelligence agency CNI. The content of the material shared with the two embassy employees is unclear.

El Pais reported that a CNI area leader and his assistant were arrested two months ago, but a court ordered their case to remain secret. The newspaper added that US Ambassador Julissa Reynoso denied any knowledge or involvement when summoned by Spanish authorities.

“At least two U.S. agents stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid who were directly involved in recruiting CNI spies have been discreetly expelled from Spain,” El Pais’ story said.

While attempting to recruit agents from a country’s intelligence apparatus is a form of espionage typical of relations between hostile powers, El Pais described the incident as “an openly hostile act” that is unbecoming of “friends or allies.”

The Spanish newspaper El Confidencial reported for the first time on Monday about the arrest of the two CNI employees. When asked about the incident on Monday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to comment.

The US Embassy in Madrid and the Spanish Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on the affair.

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