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Germany

Report: US Closes Secret CIA Prisons Ahead of Rice Visit

The US has reportedly shut down two secret CIA prisons in Poland and Romania just ahead of US Secretary of State Rice's visit to Europe. The former German government meanwhile has come under pressure in the affair.

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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Berlin late Monday

Citing CIA sources, US TV channel ABC reported that the American intelligence service moved 11 alleged al Qaeda operatives from eastern Europe to a north African country,

CIA Flug nach Rumänien

A US air base in Romania. Human Rights Watch said the CIA set up secret prisons there

CIA officials declined to comment on the reports and the Polish government said that it was not true. Romania meanwhile plans to open an investigation into the matter. The country hopes to join the EU by 2007 and Brussels has threatened that membership talks could be endangered should the allegations prove to be correct.

Who knew in Berlin ?

Innen-und Justizministertreffen, Luxemburg

What did Schily know? And when?

Officials of Germany's former government have also come under pressure in the affair. Initially, only former Interior Minister Otto Schily had been reportedly informed about the wrongful abduction of a German national by CIA operatives.

But Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported Tuesday that officials at the German chancellery and the foreign ministry also knew about the case of Khaled el-Masri, who had been abducted to Afghanistan. The man's lawyer contacted the chancellery and foreign ministry for help and the chancellery promised to get involved in a letter, the paper reported.

Germany's intelligence service, BND, reportedly investigated the case as a result and came to the conclusion that el-Masri had been abducted, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Opposition calls for investigation

Opposition leader Guido Westerwelle of the free-market, liberal Free Democratic Party said that the affairs could seriously damage US-German relations, adding that his party would call for a parliamentary inquiry if necessary to resolve the case.

But Dieter Wiefelspütz, the Social Democratic Party's security expert in parliament, told Deutschlandfunk public radio Tuesday morning that people should wait with drawing conclusions before US officials had commented on the situation.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel

Rice and Merkel are set to meet on Tuesday

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrived in Berlin late Monday and is expected to hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday, has promised to reply to European concerns over reports that the CIA used several European airports and secret jails to transport and detain terrorist suspects.

Rice: No one forced to work with US

But Rice, who will also visit Romania, Ukrain and Brussels, also said that she would not comment on the alleged existence of secret CIA prisons.

"We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law-enforcement and military operations," she said before leaving the US. "We expect other nations share this view. It's up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks in their own country or other countries. They have a sovereign right to make that choice."

Rice did, however, talk about allegations that the CIA touched down at European airports while transporting terrorist suspects to third countries for interrogation, a practice known as rendition.

"Renditions take terrorists out of action, they save lives" Rice said. "Such renditions are permissible under international law."

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