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European States "in CIA's Spider's Web"

CIA office of Special Technology in birdeye view

STRASBOURG — The Council of Europe, the continent's top human-rights watchdog, said yesterday that more than 20 governments, mostly in Europe, were part of a "global spider's web" that had helped the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conduct illicit activities on the continent.

European states were aware of, or took part in, a network run by the CIA that stretched from central Asia to the Caribbean, via the Middle East and North Africa, the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly said.

It accused Bosnia-Herzegovina, Britain, Italy, Macedonia, Germany, Sweden and Turkey of being "responsible, at varying degrees … for violations of the rights of specific persons" .

Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain "could be held responsible for collusion, active or passive" , said the report, while accusing the US of creating "this reprehensible network" .

The council also charged that Poland and Romania had hosted clandestine CIA camps on their territory. Both countries, however, deny the allegation.

In Warsaw, Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz dismissed the allegations as "libel" , Poland's PAP news agency reported. "This is libel and has no basis in fact," he was quoted as saying.

Romania rejected the accusations in the council report as "pure speculation" .

"(The) report does not provide any proof of the presence of detention centres in Romania," said Norica Nicolai, president of the parliamentary commission investigating alleged CIA flights to Romania. "We have checked all the information published in the media, and we also had access to the database of Eurocontrol, which looks after the security of European air space. There is no proof the planes that landed in Romania belong to the CIA, or of any CIA prisons in this country."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in the house of commons yesterday that the report contained "absolutely nothing new" , echoing an earlier comment by the foreign office, which said the report seemed to be based on "circumstantial" evidence such as flight data.

"Our line still is that any of these flights that have transited the UK … we have got absolutely no evidence at all that they have been used for rendition or involved in rendition," a foreign office spokesman said.

Spain "firmly and categorically" rejected the accusations, with a government spokesman in Madrid saying: "Spain has in no way, either actively or passively, taken part in operations to transfer prisoners."

The council's investigator, Dick Marty, said in a statement: "It is now clear that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities."

The report said Cairo, Amman, Islamabad, Rabat, Kabul, Guantanamo Bay, Tashkent, Algiers and Baghdad had served as detainee transfer or drop-off points.

"Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know," Marty said.

"The impression some governments tried to create at the beginning of this debate, that Europe was a victim of secret CIA plots, does not seem to correspond to reality," he said.

Marty also said there was evidence to back suspicions that secret CIA camps are or were located in Poland and Romania.

"Even if proof, in the classical meaning of the term, is not as yet available, a number of coherent and converging elements indicate that such secret detention centres did indeed exist in Europe," Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian, said.

He used evidence from national and international air traffic control authorities, as well as sources inside intelligence services, including in the US.

"The US ... created this reprehensible network, which we criticise in light of the values shared on both sides of the Atlantic," Marty said. "We believe we have established that it is only through the intentional or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners that this ‘web' was able to spread also over Europe."

He urged the international community to clarify places of detention in Kosovo, which he said qualified as "black holes" .

The report is due to be debated by the council's parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg on June 27. The Strasbourg-based council, which is a separate body from the European Union, was set up after the Second World War to promote democracy and human rights across the continent.






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