Berlin won't put pressure on Rice over CIA flights

2nd December 2005, Comments 0 comments

2 December 2005, BERLIN - The German government said Friday it has not set any deadline for an explanation from the United States of reports that so-called rendition flights by the CIA are touching down in Europe.

2 December 2005

BERLIN - The German government said Friday it has not set any deadline for an explanation from the United States of reports that so-called rendition flights by the CIA are touching down in Europe.

Germany would not be demanding an answer from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she meets next Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg said.

"We are not setting any deadline. That would be inappropriate," he told reporters. If Rice was in a position to respond Tuesday, she would make use of the opportunity, he said. "If the Bush Administration can't respond till later, we would understand."

The questions involve a procedure known as "extraordinary rendition", a form of extradition in which terrorism suspects are taken by U.S. security personnel to third countries, allegedly those where torture is allowed.

Berlin has already welcomed a U.S. statement that it would respond soon. Steg said Washington had confirmed receiving a European Union letter signed by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw asking for comment on the reports.

"We are quite sure the U.S. government will answer as soon as possible," Steg added.

Germany's justice minister, Brigitte Zypries, said, "Whether there are flights of the nature reported has so far not been confirmed by the United States and I don't have any evidence of them."

In her remarks to be published Saturday in the newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung, she said she was not going to speculate since her job was to assess facts.

"Of course it is clear that we all have to observe national and international law while fighting terrorism," she said. "Even in anti- terrorist operations, there can be no reduction of basic human rights."

The parliament of Rhineland Palatinate state, where Ramstein Air Force Base (AFB) is located, debated Friday the reports that U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) planes might have made stopovers there with terrorist suspects on board.

State Interior Minister Karl Peter Bruch said there was no evidence of any illegal activities at the U.S. base.

Rice begins a swing through Europe on Monday, starting in Germany and moving on to Ukraine, Romania and Belgium.

DPA

Subject: German news

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