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Death Penalty Issue On Agenda for Ashcroft's European Visit

Attorney General John Ashcroft said in London Wednesday the United States will deal with European objections to the death penalty on an individual basis as it seeks the extradition of terrorist suspects. London is the first place Mr. Ashcroft is stopping in on a visit to several European capitals.

The transatlantic split over capital punishment is clouding Attorney General John Ashcroft's first stop in Europe.

Unlike the United States, European countries do not impose the death penalty and are unwilling to extradite suspects to the United States who face serious charges. In his remarks in London, Mr. Ashcroft acknowledged the problem, but expressed his belief that it could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The attorney general met with his British counterpart, Home Secretary David Blunkett. The two discussed tougher legal measures designed to aid the war on terrorism. But Mr. Ashcroft said it was up to each nation to determine what, if any, new laws need to be enacted.

"I do not stand in judgement of other nations about what they are doing. I understand that as mature sovereigns, they need to make assessment of their own," he said. "I urge for the safety and security of freedom-loving people everywhere that assessments be made in the light of the nature of terrorism, a kind of international terrorism which has taken so many lives and impaired the capacity of people to operate in freedom."

In Britain, the Blair government is facing fierce opposition to several provisions in government-backed anti-terrorism legislation being considered by parliament.

Mr. Ashcroft praised Britain for its cooperation since September 11.

After leaving Britain, the attorney general will go to Spain, Germany, and Italy for talks with law enforcement officials in those countries.