FM awaits tense meeting with Rice over CIA claims
7 December 2005
BRUSSELS — Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht was keeping his cards close to his chest as he awaited the arrival of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Brussels on Wednesday.
De Gucht refused in the morning to comment on the issue of secret CIA flights in European airspace until the meeting of NATO and EU ministers.
However, he confirmed Tuesday’s comments from Transport Minister Renaat Landuyt that no CIA flights have landed at Belgian airports in the past five years.
He also said there is general “concern” in Western Europe over the secret flights conducted by the American intelligence agency and claims that the CIA operates terrorist prison camps in Central and Eastern Europe.
The second informal transatlantic summit — the first of which took place in New York in September — is being held at the invitation of De Gucht, newspaper ‘Het Gazet van Antwerpen’ reported.
In diplomatic circles, the meeting is being described as a “unique chance” for Rice to clarify questions about CIA activities abroad.
She was expected to arrive at Zaventem Airport in Brussels at about 5pm on Wednesday, having stressed again in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev earlier on Wednesday that the US did not tolerate torture.
Rice said after meeting Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko that the US respected the obligations of the UN Convention banning torture.
She also said the convention extended to all US government staff, whether stationed in America or abroad. However, she has repeatedly refused to comment on claims the CIA operates secret prison camps in Poland and Romania.
On the last leg of her European tour, Rice will enter a dinner meeting with NATO representatives on Wednesday night.
She had previously visited new German Chancellor Angel Merkel and clinched a deal with Romania allowing the US to make permanent use of four military bases in the Eastern European country.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news