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  • Rice tries to quiet terror critics

    first_imgBUCHAREST, Romania (AP) – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried Tuesday to allay European suspicions about U.S. practices in the pursuit of terrorists, even as she secured new rights for American use of a military base suspected to have housed a secret CIA prison. She refused to say whether the base ever served as a clandestine holding pen or interrogation center for terror suspects, and she stepped carefully around questions about a German citizen who sued the CIA on Tuesday over his seizure and detention by U.S. authorities. She also would not address an ABC News report that prisoners were whisked away from the Mihail Kogalniceanu base in Romania shortly before Rice arrived in the country. “I am not going to talk about whether such activities take place,” Rice said when asked about the Romanian base. “To do so would clearly be to get into a realm of discussion about supposed or purported intelligence activities and I simply won’t do that.” Romanian President Traian Basescu insisted, as he has done repeatedly since the CIA prisons allegations surfaced in news reports last month, that Romania never hosted such a site. Allegations that the United States violated human rights and European law by running clandestine jails in Europe to interrogate suspected terrorists have clouded a diplomatic trip to European capitals this week. Rice began her trip Monday with a lengthy defense of U.S. terrorism policies that she contended had saved European lives as well as American. Before traveling to Romania on Tuesday, she said in Berlin that it is important that “friends be able to talk about issues of concern.” “It is also important, though, that any debate have a healthy respect for the challenge that we face when we face an enemy that operates from within our societies” and is intent on killing innocent civilians, she added. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the United States has admitted that Khaled al-Masri’s detention was a mistake, but Rice would not say so outright. U.S. officials said they cannot discuss the German’s case in detail because it is in court. “I did say to the chancellor that when and if mistakes were made we will work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them,” Rice said. As for secret prisons, suspicion fell on Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Black Sea and Poland’s Szymany Airport after Human Rights Watch said it had flight records indicating that aircraft with links to the CIA landed repeatedly at both facilities in 2001-2004. The Romanian base, which was heavily used by U.S. forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, was among several installations covered in a defense cooperation pact signed Tuesday by Rice and Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu. Officials opened the base to AP journalists last month, and the sprawling base appeared virtually deserted. Romania’s military and the Pentagon say U.S. forces, which at one point numbered about 3,500 at the base, were withdrawn in June 2003 and since have returned only briefly for training exercises, most recently in September. Yet some officials acknowledged that parts of the installation were off-limits to Romanian authorities, and the country’s main intelligence service, SRI, has said it had no jurisdiction there. “There were some bases we put at the Americans’ disposal. We can’t know what happened there,” former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who served 2001-2004 and now heads the Chamber of Deputies, said Tuesday. He added, however: “For us, it’s clear there was no secret agreement” allowing covert U.S. activity. The new agreement is meant to give U.S. forces a jumping-off point in Eastern Europe to be closer to potential terror targets in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov, speaking at a news conference in Washington, said negotiations between his country and the United States about a military facility there should be concluded in March. The agreement, he said, would help improve his country’s armed forces, boost the economy and enhance security. In Germany, Rice congratulated Merkel on her election. Merkel is Germany’s first chancellor from the formerly communist East, and for the Bush administration a welcome change after a turbulent relationship with Gerhard Schroeder. In Romania, Rice praised cooperation between U.S. and Romanian forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Underscoring a friendship that has deepened since Romania threw off communism in 1989, Rice hailed the country as “a strong friend with whom we share common values.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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