Spain to raise CIA affair at foreign ministers meeting

15.09.06 @ 09:57

  1. By Mark Beunderman

BRUSSELS - Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will ask his EU counterparts at a meeting today to speak out on alleged illegal CIA activities in the EU, stressing however that there is "no evidence" of US wrongdoing in Spain.

  • Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will ask his EU counterparts at meeting today to speak out on alleged illegal CIA activities in the EU (Photo: European Commission)

Mr Moratinos on Thursday (14 September) appeared before the European Parliament's temporary committee on the CIA affair, as the first government official to be quizzed by MEPs on allegations that EU governments may have been complicit in human rights violations by the CIA, the US intelligence agency.

The meeting took place one week after US president George W. Bush admitted that the CIA had run covert prisons for terror suspects, but did not say where.

Mr Moratinos announced that he would push other foreign ministers to speak out on the matter when they meet today in Brussels.

"I will go and tell them [foreign ministers] that it is an important subject and that the council [the ministers] must therefore tackle it," he said.

"I believe that the ministers will agree in expressing concern over this type of attitudes and practices."

Spain will raise the issue even if it is not on the official agenda prepared by the Finnish EU presidency, said Mr Moratinos.

"We all support the protection of human rights and therefore we hope that we can discuss this on our own initiative because it is not on the agenda."

'No evidence'

The Spanish minister also said that "in no way can we conclude that illegal activities have taken place" in Spain, which has been regularly mentioned as a hub for so-called rendition flights by the CIA - carrying terror suspects to covert jails.

"But our investigation remains open," he added, with a Spanish prosecutor currently investigating flights which landed in Palma de Mallorca.

"Our territory may have been used, not to commit crimes, but as a stopover on the way to committing crimes in another country," he said.

Italian socialist MEP Claudio Fava, the parliament's rapporteur on the issue, highlighted the "rather strange itineraries" of the flights making stopovers on the island of Mallorca, such as Rabat-Algiers-Bucharest-Guantanamo.

Kilos of ice

He said that MEPs had been told that on one Mallorca stopover last year with Washington as a destination, the crew of a US aircraft had demanded 60 kilos of ice which would indicate that prisoners were being held on the plane which stayed on the Spanish airport for more than two days.

Mr Moratinos countered that the Falcon jet he had taken to Brussels had 10 kilos of ice - suggesting that 60 kilos for the Washington trip was not excessive.

On top of this, Spanish police investigations into the handling of the aircraft and the behaviour of the US crew in hotels had not resulted in "any evidence" of terror suspects being held on the plane.

But MEPs remaine suspicious, with Mr Fava declaring "how can it be that hundreds of these flights took place without any of our governments to stop them?"

Spanish Green MEP Raul Romeva i Rueda said "I'm concerned about the credibility of the EU. What is this constant denial going to do to us?"