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EU urges US to answer EU lawmakers on CIA flights

By Staff
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VIENNA, May 3 (Reuters) The European Union urged the United States today to respond to EU lawmakers heading for Washington next week to investigate allegations of secret CIA detention centres and flights in Europe for terror suspects.

But neither the EU's top Justice official nor the Justice and Interior minister of EU President Austria asked US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales any questions on the allegations during talks today, EU officials said.

A Washington Post report last year that the CIA had run secret prisons in Europe and flown suspects to states where they would have been tortured unleashed a spate of investigations, but none have so far produced a ''smoking gun'', or solid proof.

''I strongly hope members of the (European Parliament's) inquiry committee will be received in Washington by American officials to open a transparent dialogue to find the truth,'' the EU's Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini told a news conference after talks with Gonzales on EU-US security cooperation.

''It is in our common interest,'' Frattini stressed, saying how sensitive the issue was in the EU.

Gonzales reiterated at the same news conference the US position that it has used rendition flights but never to extradite someone to a country where he would be tortured.

He added he understood how important it was for public opinion to perceive that Washington was meeting its commitments under domestic and international law.

But he made no commitment to give detailed answers to the EU lawmakers when they travel to Washington on May 8-12.

The European Parliament's committee has heard testimony from alleged victims and rights groups. It has no legal powers, but can recommend political actions against any countries found to have been involved, including the United States.

Its key lawmaker, Claudio Fava, said last week there had been thousands of CIA flights transiting through the EU and the CIA had on several occasions kidnapped alleged terrorists in the EU and sent them to countries where they could be tortured.

The lawmakers' delegation will not get to meet US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice but will hold talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried and the State Department's legal adviser John Bellinger, said British EU lawmaker Sarah Ludford.

The aim of the visit is ''not confrontational but fact finding ... the committee has no power or no intention to do hearings, we'll have meetings with people willing to see us,'' Ludford, who is vice-chair of the committee, told Reuters.

The EU lawmakers will also meet members of Congress, lawyers and non governemental organisations, Ludford said.

REUTERS DKS RK0043

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