Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said German-American counter-terrorism cooperation will continue, despite the controversy over alleged secret U.S. detention sites in Europe. Ms. Merkel said the United States has admitted it erroneously detained a German citizen suspected of terrorist links.
Ms. Rice preceded her departure for Europe with a public statement reiterating that the United States does not condone torture and conducts its anti-terrorism efforts within American laws and international obligations.
The issue dominated discussions here with the new German chancellor. And, although Ms. Merkel said, while the U.S. declaration may not end the public controversy in Europe, it does provide a good base for continued anti-terrorism cooperation between the two countries' intelligence services.
At a joint news conference with Ms. Rice, Chancellor Merkel said she was grateful for the U.S. clarifications.
"I am very grateful to the American secretary of state that she's reiterated that America stands by its international commitments, that it stands by its rejection of torture, and that it adheres to the laws of the United States of America," she said. "In the meeting we had, I myself made it quite clear that I, as the chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, work under and adhere to German laws and the international commitments that my country has entered into. And, I believe that it is a good basis on which we build."
In addition to the general discussion on anti-terrorist tactics, the talks here also focused on the specific case of a Lebanese-born German citizen - Khaled el-Masri - who says he was abducted by American agents in Macedonia on suspicion of terrorist connections in 2003, and later tortured at an Afghan detention site before being released.
Chancellor Merkel said the Bush administration has admitted that Mr. el-Masri was erroneously taken and that Ms. Rice said that such a mistake, if it occurred, has to be rectified.
For her part, Ms. Rice said she could not comment on the el-Masri case because it may be the subject of U.S. litigation. Still, she conceded that mistakes in the anti-terrorist struggle can be made.
"I did say to the chancellor that, when and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them," she said. "Any policy will sometimes have mistakes and it is our promise to our partners that should that be the case, we'll do everything that we can to rectify those mistakes. I believe that this will be handled in the proper course here in Germany, and if necessary in American courts as well."
Secretary Rice says she assured Ms. Merkel the United States will do everything its power to gain the release of a German aid worker taken hostage in Iraq, late last month. They also discussed Afghanistan and European nuclear contacts with Iran, in preparation for Ms. Merkel's first visit to Washington as chancellor next month.