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Opposition Pressures Government Over CIA Affair

DW staff (dre)December 8, 2005

After a period of waiting, pressure is beginning to mount on the German government over the CIA affair engulfing transatlantic relations.

Opposition: Merkel could have asked Rice for more informationImage: AP

A misunderstanding during talks between Merkel and Rice on Tuesday have lead to speculation that transatlantic relations could be entering another ice age.

While Merkel's government on Thursday stood firm behind Merkel's press conference statement in which she said the US had "accepted as a mistake" the wrongful kidnapping of German national Khaled el-Masri, German opposition politicians slammed the new chancellor for not getting more answers during her half-hour talk with Rice.

"We heard only general explanations .. I don't think yesterday brought us a single step forward," Heinz Lanfermann, a member of the liberal Free Democrats parliamentary faction told news channel n-tv, according to Reuters.

Pressure mounting

As German anger over reports that their country was used as a transit point for so-called renditions, the covert transportation of terror suspects to third countries, continues to rise, opposition politicians are upping the pressure on the Merkel government, as well as her predecessors.

Otto Schily vor Visa Untersuchungsausschuss
Former interior minister Otto Schily said he was willing to testifyImage: AP

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier admitted Tuesday that he was informed last year of el-Masri's case, who was seized by the CIA and flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan in 2003. Steinmeier was at the time chief of state to then-Chancellor Schröder.

Former Interior Minister Otto Schily was also forced to admit that he had been informed of the kidnapping in 2004 by former US Ambassador Dan Coates. Free Democratic Party chief Guido Westerwelle called for an extensive investigation into the affair, and how many more government officials might have known.

Open, not closed door investigation

He told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that prosecutors should look into the behavior of Schily and former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer - reportedly also informed - saying tacit knowledge of the kidnapping could be constituted as a crime.

Westerwelle was one of several opposition politicians to call for a special parliamentary investigative committee to look into the case. Government politicians have rejected such a wide-reaching, public forum for investigating the case. They prefer the case be heard in the Bundestag's controlling committee, which meets behind closed doors.

55.Parteitag der FDP in Dresden: Guido Westerwelle
Guido Westerwelle wants a public investigationImage: AP

Schily said in Thursday's edition of the weekly paper, Die Zeit, that he would be willing to testify before such a committee. He said that he has pressed the U.S. to explain el-Kasri's kidnapping.

"Unfortunately, this did not happen in an adequate manner," he said.