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Germany

Report: CIA Operated 400-Plus Secret Flights in Germany

The German government has a list of at least 437 flights operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency in German airspace, according to a news report.

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The CIA reportedly transports terror suspects in planes like this one

The number includes both movements by planes of the CIA spy agency in German airspace and landings at German airports, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel writes in its next issue, to be published on Monday.

"Such planes could be used to transfer presumed terrorists and place them in secret locations," according to the magazine.

The report comes on the eve of a visit to Germany by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The list was handed over by the national air navigation security agency at the request of the Left Party.

A German government spokesman confirmed the government had received the list, but said it only revealed "how many times which planes of which companies flew in German airspace or landed at German airports."

The national air navigation security agency did not provide any information "on who had used the planes or their destination," the spokesman said.

Did Germa n gover n me n t k n ow about flights?

US-Luftwaffen-Zentrale wird in Ramstein errichtet

Ramstein air base

In 2002 and 2003 two CIA aircraft alone accounted for 137 and 146 uses of German airspace or landings, chiefly at Frankfurt in the west, Berlin or the US base at Ramstein in western Germany, according to the report. Germany has the largest number of US bases in Europe.

In an interview published Saturday in the Fra n kfurter Ru n dschau newspaper the secretary general of the German branch of the human rights organization Amnesty International claimed the German government knew of the CIA flights.

That assertion was contested by Wolfgang Bosach, a leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, saying if the government knew of them it would be a "serious violation" of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The United States have been accused of having operated CIA flights since Sept. 11, 2001, using European airspace or airports carrying terrorism suspects to countries practicing torture.

A British newspaper claimed Thursday, on the basis of US civil aviation figures, that 96 flights had been recorded in Germany, 80 in Britain, 15 in the Czech Republic, two in France and one in Poland.

Rice wo n 't face tough questio n s i n Berli n

Steinmeier in Washington

Rice met German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Washington on Nov. 29

On Monday, Rice will be in Berlin to start a European tour during which she is likely to be questioned both about the flights and the alleged existence of US detention centers for Islamists in eastern Europe. She has said she will give answers before embarking on her tour.

On Tuesday she will meet Germany's new conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, the German government indicated Friday that it would not be asking for explanations about the flights, not wanting to exercise "pressure."

Der Spiegel said the government was worried that the affair could prompt a fundamental debate about the use of German airspace by US planes for the war in Iraq and the basing of US troops in Germany.

Berlin has also been asked to inform the 46-member Council of Europe by Feb. 21 what action it has undertaken in specific cases of "kidnappings" after being told about them, the magazine says.

Since June 2004 the foreign ministry has had a document from a German citizen of Lebanese origin, Khaled al-Masri, reporting ill-treatment aboard a CIA flight. According to Der Spiegel the US authorities informally confirmed the "kidnapping" in early 2005.

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