Der Spiegel's claims that the German military will not use Microsoft software on computers in "sensitive areas" is wrong, a Defence Ministry spokesman said yesterday.

The spokesman said: "We have a general licence contract with Microsoft, and that remains in force." He added that various security measures, including firewalls, are being implemented in consultation with the German federal IT security agency BSI (Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik), but declined to give details.

Der Spiegel, a German magazine, reported in its March 17 online edition that the Defence Ministry is concerned that US intelligence services could access secret information. German security officials know that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has access to "all relevant source codes" to Microsoft software, Der Spiegel said. Authorities plan to rely on encryption technology from the German companies Siemens and Deutsche Telekom instead.

Microsoft denial "There are no back doors in any Microsoft products," said spokeswoman Louise Conroy of Microsoft's Europe, Middle East, and Africa headquarters. She added: "We're committed to providing secure products that can be used to protect the integrity of all our customers worldwide." Asked about reports that NSA had been given access to source codes, she said: "Over the years, Microsoft has had its products evaluated by independent third-parties to confirm that they meet US, Canadian, and European security standards."

"In France we had such a comment in late February about the NSA, software and source code," said Guillaume Tourres, a spokesman in Microsoft's Paris office. "The NSA rumour is coming back every two or three months. We are used to answering these questions."

He added that the company is in negotiations with the French government to grant access to the source code. He said: "We have a worldwide program where authorities will be able to have the source code of Windows and other Microsoft software."

Microsoft has recently publicized plans to make source code more widely available to large corporate clients in order to debug and customize their applications.