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Thread: U.S. To Respond To Inquiries Over Detentions In Europe

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    U.S. To Respond To Inquiries Over Detentions In Europe

    U.S. to Respond to Inquiries Over Detentions in Europe

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/30/in...rssnyt&emc=rss

    By STEVEN R. WEISMAN and IAN FISHER
    Published: November 30, 2005

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - The Bush administration, responding to European alarm over allegations of secret detention camps and the transport of terror suspects on European soil, insisted Tuesday that American actions complied with international law but promised to respond to formal inquiries from European nations.

    The administration's comments came after the new German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, raised concerns on Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about reported American practices in the handling and interrogation of captives, according to American and German officials.

    In addition, European officials said the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, sent a letter to Ms. Rice on Tuesday on behalf of the European Union asking for clarifications. Britain currently holds the union's presidency.

    "The United States realizes that these are topics that are generating interest among European publics as well as parliaments, and that these questions need to be responded to," said Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman. He added that Ms. Rice said the administration would respond to any official request for more information.

    The question of whether European nations have been complicit in the administration's actions has seized the attention of Europe's press, public and politicians since The Washington Post first reported on Nov. 2 that prisoners had been secretly held in bases in Europe or transported through them.

    The newspaper withheld the names of specific nations at the request of the Bush administration, which has not confirmed or denied any details since then. Several European governments have denied playing a role or have demanded explanations.

    "Like I said, and we have said many times from this podium, we're just not in a position to confirm those reports," Mr. McCormack said Tuesday. He added that confronting terrorism was "a shared responsibility of all countries" and that perpetrators of terrorist acts "don't comply with any laws."

    "All U.S. actions comply with U.S. laws," Mr. McCormack said. "They comply with the United States Constitution, and they comply with our international obligations." Mr. McCormack declined to answer whether he was sure American actions complied with European laws.

    European and American officials say Ms. Rice is beginning to realize that the issue has become so inflamed that she will probably have to prepare a more lengthy response before traveling to Europe next week.

    "It's becoming one of the public issues she's going to have to address on her next trip," said a European official, asking not to be identified in discussing the delicate matter of pressures on the United States. "The mood in Europe is one of increasing concern over what people call the American 'gulag' and the reports of all these stopovers in Europe for prisoners."

    European and administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity both out of protocol and because they are legally barred from discussing intelligence matters, say that no matter what has occurred, the standard practice of not commenting on clandestine operations has made the United States vulnerable to harsh, even potentially debilitating criticism.

    "The truth is these are only allegations within newspapers at the moment, but they are allegations that are playing strongly in Europe," another European official said. "What European leaders are doing right now is asking questions and hoping for some clarifications."

    There are two investigations of American practices under way, one by the 25-member European Union and the other by the Council of Europe, a 46-member group founded after World War II that specializes in human rights inquiries. The United States sits on the council as an official observer.

    A European official said Mr. Straw presided over a tense meeting of European foreign ministers on Nov. 21, where several of them voiced growing unease over the allegations of secret prisons and harsh treatment that some view as torture, a characterization the administration disputes categorically.

    In response, Mr. Straw agreed to draft a letter to Ms. Rice seeking "clarifications."

    Mr. McCormack said the letter had not arrived as of Tuesday afternoon. It was not known whether Europe would demand to know the locations of detention facilities, whose operations would have to be arranged with at least the tacit permission of the individual governments.

    After The Washington Post reported that detention camps had been used in unidentified Eastern European countries, Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups in Europe said that based on aircraft flight records, Poland and Romania might have been host to such sites or might have otherwise cooperated with the Americans. Both countries have denied the allegations.

    Meanwhile, separate allegations spread in Europe, raising questions about the possible use of European airports or air bases for the transport of terror suspects.

    On Monday, the justice and home affairs commissioner for the European Union, Franco Frattini, said in Berlin that any member found to have permitted detention camps could face "serious consequences," including a loss of voting rights in the union. But other European officials say there is no legal basis for such an action.

    Administration officials said this week that they were taken aback by the intensity of the European reaction to the reports. They acknowledged that the furor had been fed by two years of disclosures about American treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and in Afghanistan.

    The uproar has been especially strong in Spain, Germany, Italy, Romania and Poland. Although the British press has covered the issue extensively, the government there has not been critical of the American position.

    The Council of Europe's investigation has been led by Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker, who said last week in Romania that he did not believe there was a prison in the region comparable to the one in Guantánamo.

    "But it is possible that there were detainees that stayed 10, 15 or 30 days," Mr. Marty told reporters. "We do not have the full picture."

    Administration officials say that despite the bad publicity in Europe, the United States is continuing to work closely with Europe on various issues and that those efforts have not been affected by the controversy.

    Steven R. Weisman reported from Washington for this article, and Ian Fisher from Rome.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    Straw quizzes US on 'CIA flights'
    BBC



    The foreign secretary has written to Washington over claims that the CIA has used EU airports to move suspects to other countries for torture. Jack Straw said the letter "expressed concern" on behalf of all EU countries and he was waiting for a response. He spoke after human rights group Liberty urged police to probe allegations that the flights called at British airports. The US government has said its laws have not been broken. But it has refused to confirm or deny the existence of "secret prisons" in third countries. Liberty has called for action within 14 days - or, it has said, it will go to court claiming police aided and abetted kidnap and torture.

    'Appropriate steps'

    The Foreign Office has said it had no evidence of such use of UK territory.

    At a news conference with Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who is visiting the UK, Mr Straw said his letter "had gone".He said he was waiting for a response from the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and he would circulate the reply to all his foreign minister colleagues.

    "Meanwhile, let me say, I think there is no purpose in speculating on allegations that are made on this side or the other side of the Atlantic," he said. "These are allegations about a foreign government. We have taken the appropriate steps, which is to ask for clarification by that government."

    The Guardian in September reported claims that at least 210 CIA flights had landed in the UK since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. It is alleged at least 12 airports in England and Scotland have been used, with the busiest being Prestwick in Ayrshire where CIA aircraft landed more than 75 times.

    Suspicions

    Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty's director, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The allegations, the suspicions, the circumstantial evidence if you like, gives serious enough concern that we should ask chief constables to do their duty. "They have positive obligations under international law and under our human rights act to investigate, and that's what we ask them to do."



    Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell told Today: "We need full disclosure by the government. "If in fact people are being moved from a jurisdiction where torture is illegal to a jurisdiction where torture is permissible, that seems to me to be wholly contrary to international law.

    "If we are allowing facilities for aircraft carrying out those actions, then we are at the very least facilitating it; we may even be complicit in it."

    Police letters

    Liberty has written to the chief constables of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence police, Sussex, Thames Valley and West Midlands forces. Because of the possibility of court action if police fail to respond, Scottish police operating under a different legal system have not been contacted, Liberty says.

    The airports allegedly involved include Biggin Hill in Kent, Birmingham, Bournemouth, RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, Farnborough, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Mildenhall in Suffolk, RAF Northolt in north London, Stansted and Prestwick.

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