Rice Readies for European Swing

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice departs Monday on a diplomatic tour of Europe, in the wake of reports the CIA ran secret detention facilities in European countries.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be heading into troubled diplomatic waters tomorrow, in Europe. European officials want an explanation of reports the US has flown terror suspects through European airports to secret detention sites. NPR State Department correspondent Michele Kelemen joins me to talk about the trip.

Hi, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

Nice to be with you.

ELLIOTT: The secretary's first stop is in Germany, and just today there was an article in The Washington Post about a German citizen who was actually held by the US for five months before the government admitted it was a case of mistaken identity. Will that case come up in Secretary Rice's trip to Berlin?

KELEMEN: Well, in fact, while she's in Germany, the American Civil Liberties Union back here is expected to file a lawsuit, and we believe it's going to involve this case. The ACLU said in a statement Friday that it plans to charge CIA officials at the highest level violated US and universal human rights laws when they allowed agents to abduct this man--it was in Macedonia--and then transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. So you have an ACLU lawsuit potentially involving this case, The Washington Post article--all of this adding to an already pretty big controversy in Europe. The European Union wrote to Condoleezza Rice this past week asking formally for information from Rice and hoping that she's going to give some sort of information on all these allegations that will allay concerns about the secret detention issue.

ELLIOTT: Do we know how Secretary Rice will respond?

KELEMEN: It seems that she's going to try to turn the tables a bit and suggest that, `Look, we're all in this fight together, the Europeans and the Americans.' We've heard some of this line today from national security adviser Stephen Hadley. He was on FOX Television today, and he said that Rice is going to tell Europeans that the US complies with its laws and respects other countries' sovereignty. And he also had this very interesting comment. He said, `We do not move people around the world so that they can be tortured.' Now that doesn't really answer the question whether the US has been holding prisoners in secret; it also doesn't rule out cruel and degrading treatment.

ELLIOTT: What do we know about these secret detention sites in Europe?

KELEMEN: Well, this is one of the things that the Bush administration is going to have a hard time talking to Europeans about because administration officials refuse to confirm or deny that these sites exist. The Europeans, obviously, are going to be seeking much clearer answers, but so far it looks like they're not going to get that sort of answer.

ELLIOTT: After Germany, she will head to Romania. Will the detention controversy follow her there? Wasn't that country one of the places where there was supposedly a secret detention site?

KELEMEN: Well, that's right. The Washington Post originally said that it withheld the names of the countries; it just said, `Two countries in eastern Europe that have these sites.' Human Rights Watch pointed specifically to Romania, after looking at flight logs. Romania denies this, but it's obviously something that's going to come up.

But what she's hoping to do there is she's planning on signing a defense cooperation agreement, because Romania has been this ally with the US, an important country for the Pentagon's plans to set up these sort of lily pad bases, as they call them.

ELLIOTT: There are also stops in Ukraine and then NATO headquarters in Brussels. What should Rice expect there?

KELEMEN: Ukraine, she's going to celebrate this year after the so-called Orange Revolution. She'll have her democracy speech. And then the last stop, she'll be meeting NATO and EU colleagues, and you can bet the secret detention issue will be discussed there.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Michele Kelemen, thanks.

KELEMEN: You're welcome.

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