Berlin 'preparing report' on CIA abduction affair

12th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 December 2005, BERLIN - In a bid to head off an escalating political row, Germany is preparing a comprehensive report on the kidnapping of a German-Lebanese national by U.S. intelligence forces and allegations of secret CIA flights transporting terror suspects, according to media reports Saturday.

12 December 2005

BERLIN - In a bid to head off an escalating political row, Germany is preparing a comprehensive report on the kidnapping of a German-Lebanese national by U.S. intelligence forces and allegations of secret CIA flights transporting terror suspects, according to media reports Saturday.

Germany's weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported that government officials are currently in the process of working their way through a slew of documents to draw up the report.

The aim of the report, which is to be completed next week, will be to address the growing stream of questions about what ministers in former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government knew about the kidnapping and the CIA flights.

The case of Khaled al-Masri, who claims he was kidnapped and held in a secret CIA detention centre as a terrorism suspect, has helped to fuel a furore in Germany concerning allegations that terrorist suspects were shipped across Europe to secret CIA prisons.

The al-Masri claims, together with the CIA affair, have embroiled Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in a major controversy less than four weeks after she was sworn in as Germany's first woman leader.

On Saturday, Poland's new Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz called for an investigation into reports that the CIA operated secret prisons in his country.

Marcinkiewicz, who became prime minister following Poland's September election, said reports of CIA flights secretly landing in Poland had placed at risk his country's security.

In the face of a stream of revelations and allegations, the German government on Friday refused to provide any further information about the case, saying it was an intelligence matter.

However, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said the report will now form the basis of the evidence to be placed before a special parliamentary committee.

The committee will hear details of the abduction, and the so- called rendition flights across German airspace, from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former Interior Minister Otto Schily.

Both have come under pressure to reveal details of what they knew about the flights and the kidnapping al-Masri.

Al-Masri, who was arrested in Macedonia in December 2003, claims to have been handed over to the CIA before being flown to Afghanistan for interrogation on suspicion of terrorism.

He returned to Europe five months later after the CIA accepted that he was the wrong man.

The revelations about CIA rendition flights and al-Masri's kidnapping have also set back Merkel's hopes of launching a fresh start to Berlin's relations with Washington.

At a joint press conference earlier his week with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Merkel said the U.S. had admitted it made a mistake in the al-Masri case.

Merkel's comments angered U.S. officials, with Rice insisting at the press conference that she would not be drawn on the specifics of any case but accepted that in general mistakes could be made by authorities.

Al-Masri this week filed a suit against former CIA Director George Tenet, saying he was forcibly abducted.

Steinmeier, who was Schroeder's chief of staff at the time, is also to address parliament on Wednesday about the affair, which has strained Germany's relations with Washington.

The Council of Europe is due to release a report on the CIA affair in Paris on Tuesday.

In an interview with the daily Bild newspaper Saturday, Steinmeier rejected claims that German agents may have played a role in the al- Masri kidnapping.

He described the claims, published in a newspaper report Friday, as "infuriating and irresponsible", insisting that the German authorities are bound by the rule of law.

In an interview with Saturday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, al-Masri said that briefly before his release in Afghanistan he had contact with a man named "Sam".

"He was 100 per cent a German," he said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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