Europe sanctions for CIA jails

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would address concerns about the suspected detention centres “in as complete and forthright a manner as we possibly can.”

Mr McCormack made the pledge as he announced a European tour next week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was likely to face a grilling on the US handling of captured terror suspects.

“We have received inquiries from Europe concerning these press reports,” Mr McCormack said.

“We’re going to do our best to answer these questions in as complete and forthright a manner as we possibly can.”

Mr McCormack said that Ms Rice, due to visit Germany, Romania and Ukraine before heading to Belgium for a NATO meeting, was prepared to discuss the reported secret prisons if asked by her country’s allies.

But he gave no indication whether she would go beyond the US administration’s line, neither confirming nor denying the existence of the interrogation centers but defending tough action in the war on terror.

“This is a struggle that all free countries, including the countries of
Europe, share with us: how to deal with groups of people, individuals, that respect no law, that wear no uniform, that follow no regulations,” Mr McCormack said.

The prison reports have caused an uproar in Europe, with European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini threatening sanctions for any EU nation housing such facilities.

Mr Frattini said the EU had contacted the White House several days ago but had received no formal assurance the reports were untrue.

The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly has launched its own probe and about a dozen European countries have begun looking into reports of flights of CIA transport planes carrying suspected Islamic extremists.

Mr McCormack declined to say how Washington would convey its response to the European concerns, whether it would be a formal statement or come through in Ms Rice’s discussions.

“We’re going to try to get back to them, like I said, in response to their queries,” he said. “I don’t have any detail. I don’t have details on what manner of response there will be.”