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French officials accused five Americans -- four of them U.S. diplomats -- of economic espionage, and sternly "invited" them to leave the country. French news reports said all five were accused of being CIA operatives (one was identified as the agency's top official there) and that the Americans allegedly tried to bribe ranking French civil servants to provide information about France's telecommunications industry and the country's strategy in world trade talks. Two other U.S. Embassy employees implicated in espionage had been sent home earlier. State Department officials called the charges "unwarranted," and White House spokesman Mike McCurry said "it remains to be seen" whether the Americans will leave. TIME Paris bureau chief Thomas Sancton reports that the French foreign ministry, which usually handles such matters, was left "out of the loop" and is now trying to smooth U.S. feathers. Sancton says that the expulsion orders were issued last night by France's Interior ministry and were highly unusual.