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Germany

Commission Scrutinizes German Intelligence's Role in Iraq

A German parliamentary commission is meeting Wednesday behind closed doors to examine the role of the country's secret service in the Iraq war.

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How much did German intelligence know of events in Iraq?

Opposition parties in the Parliamentary Control Commission reviewing the role of the German intelligence service in Iraq are dissatisfied with the government's report on the issue. Members of the Green and Left parties said the official response to their questions was inadequate.

The German government handed over its report to the Control Commission earlier this week. The commission is discussing the report behind closed doors on Wednesday.

The body's Green party representative, Christian Ströbele, said prior to the meeting he would seek a minority vote on the report.

"The report does not meet my approval," Ströbele told the newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. "We have to clarify if something is still open."

The report looks at the role of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) in Iraq, the CIA's abduction of German citizen Khaled el-Masri and secret CIA flights in Europe, as well as prisoner interrogations abroad by German investigators.

Commission seeks maximum transparency

The commission will decide whether to call for a formal parliamentary probe after they've discussed the report.

But the commission's Left Party representative, Wolfgang Neskovic, said a parliamentary inquiry to clarify the BND affair was necessary. He told German radio RBB-Inforadio that the commission did not have "the necessary clarification instruments" that an inquiry would. The commission could only draw on that information relinquished by the government, Neskovic said.

BND - Außenstelle Berlin

The Commission needs to clarify what the BND did in Iraq

The federal government and the commission will jointly decide how much of the report will be made public. But the opposition would like as much transparency as possible. Should the government's information not satisfy the commission, a formal parliamentary probe is still an option.

Berlin failed to provide a clear answer on Masri

German prosecutors said they were investigating whether the government knew -- sooner than it admitted -- that the CIA had wrongfully detained el-Masri.

"We are investigating this," said Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld, chief state prosecutor in the southern city of Munich.

Khaled el Masri wurde von der CIA entführt

Masri said undercover US agents mistakenly detained him

The German government has for months faced allegations that it may have joined forces with the CIA in the case of 42-year-old Masri, who was held in Afghanistan for five months as a suspected terrorist. But Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has denied a cover-up, saying late last year that Berlin only learnt of the episode after the CIA released Masri in May 2004.

Schmidt-Sommerfeld said the government has been asked to clarify the matter. Although it has responded, it has so far failed to provide a clear answer, he said.

Masri has meanwhile claimed that one of the men who interrogated him while he was in Afghanistan was a high-ranking member of the German police. Schmidt-Sommerfeld said Masri identified the policeman from photographs. But when they met face to face earlier this week in New Ulm -- the southern German town where the former detainee lives -- he could not be "absolutely sure" that it was the man who questioned him.

"We need absolute certainty," the prosecutor said. He said his office would also try to establish whether the policeman was in Afghanistan at the time.

Masri, an unemployed car salesman, claims he was drugged, questioned and tortured in a prison camp in Afghanistan and later released without explanation in Albania. He has filed a lawsuit against the CIA, demanding at least $75,000 dollars in damages.

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