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Controversy Divides US, Europe

Outrage in Europe over alleged CIA torture camps and covert flights across the continent exposes a wide gap between Americans and Europeans on how they view the war on terror, analysts say.

While many Americans came to believe in the wake of the September 11 attacks that terrorists were at their doorstep, ready to strike anytime, Europeans have a different perception, they say.

"On the US side there is a sense of imminent threat, that we cannot waste time by going through courts, finding evidence," said Simon Serfaty, an expert on European affairs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"On the European side there is a sense that the threat is not so very imminent so that you can take your time thinking through the issue and not make compromises between ends and means."

Dieter Dettke, an expert on German politics at the Washington office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, said the uproar in Europe over the prison camps reflected the differing approaches to terrorism.

"We do have a more legalistic perspective on the war on terror and America is far less concerned about legalities," he said.

Allegations that the CIA set up secret prisons, or "black sites," in several eastern European countries to interrogate terrorist suspects and that it had used airports across the continent to transport these suspects in the wake of the September 11 attacks first surfaced last month.

The existence of the prisons would be in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Union's justice commissioner has warned that any EU country found to have hosted a secret CIA jail would have its voting rights suspended.

Washington initially refused to address the issue, but faced with mounting fury in Europe and a formal EU request for an explanation it has vowed to provide a forthright response.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be flying smack into the storm when she visits Europe this week and the row is likely to dog her at every public appearance she makes in Germany, Romania, Ukraine and Belgium.

"What you are likely to hear from the secretary is that the US is entitled to take whatever measures it feels are necessary in order to protect itself from terrorism," said Christopher Preble, director of foreign policy at the US-based Cato Institute think tank.

"And the simple truth is that many Americans, not all, agree with that and the sentiment in Europe is very different."

Michael Calingaert, an expert on Europe with the Washington-based Brookings Institution, lamented the fact that the scandal comes at a time as countries on both sides of the Atlantic try to mend relations that were strained by the US-led war in Iraq.

"I think unfortunately this does not help the US image and it certainly adds fuel, ammunition to those who have been critical of the US for having carried out the war in Iraq," he said.

He added that it was in the interest of both the United States and Europe to contain the row and not let it get in the way of broader issues on their agenda.

Preble noted that while Rice may be put on the spot about the CIA torture prisons during her public appearances in Europe, it may not figure high on the agenda during her private meetings with leaders.

(China Daily December 5, 2005)


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