Ramon Serrano Suner, Spain's foreign minister from May 1941 to September 1942, has denied Spanish diplomats spied for Japan in the United States during World War II.

U.S. government documents made public by the National Security Agency in Washington a week ago said American intelligence uncovered a Spanish spy ring set up just after the outbreak of war between the United States and Japan late in 1941.

The documents, which included decoded Japanese diplomatic messages, said diplomats and journalists from neutral Spain actively spied for Japan within the United States. U.S. agents uncovered the operation but allowed it to continue rather than reveal they had broken enemy codes, the documents reported.

Serrano Suner, 77, a brother-in-law of the late Gen. Francisco Franco, said in a statement yesterday: "I can assert in the strongest manner that not a single (Spanish) diplomat, as far as I know, during my time as foreign minister and that of my successor, had anything to do with these espionage activities."

He said he was aware that some Spanish journalists working in the United States were spying for Japan, but they had no official authorization to do so and he had no control over them.

"I knew of the existence of such journalists but never, until now, have I known of the so-called spy ring," he said.

According to the U.S. documents, the only American move against the network was in April 1943, when Serrano Suner and the spy ring's unnamed leader were reported to have been assaulted in a Madrid park.

Serrano Suner denied he was ever the object of such an attack.