LONDON – European indignation over the CIA’s alleged use of kidnappings, secret flights and clandestine prisons on European territory mounted Wednesday as leaders in Britain and Germany pressed the U.S. government for an explanation.
Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, said he has written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seeking “clarification” about the secret flights and alleged prisons while Angela Merkel, the new German chancellor, raised the issue in her first major foreign-policy speech.
“I believe we can trust … that the American government is taking European concerns seriously and in the near future will clear up the recent reports on apparent CIA prisons and illegal flights,” Merkel said.
Straw made the announcement during a news conference with Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini of Italy, where a prosecutor is seeking the extradition of 22 CIA operatives alleged to have been involved in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan.
Straw’s letter and Merkel’s speech come at a time of a growing European furor over the CIA’s so-called rendition flights of terror suspects and allegations of secret prison camps in at least two East European countries.
Earlier this week, Franco Frattini, the European Union’s top justice minister, warned member states they would face severe sanctions if it turns out they allowed secret prisons to operate on their territory.
“I would be obliged to propose to the Council (of Ministers) serious consequences, including the suspension of voting rights,” Frattini said. Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights organization, has suggested that the secret prisons are in Poland and Romania. Both countries deny it, but the European Council has appointed a Swiss senator, Dick Marty, to investigate.
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