- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Administration officials and Senate Republicans said a compromise can be reached over the treatment of detained terror suspects.

Divisions remain on a proposed modification of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which regulates the interrogation standards of terror suspects. The administration says it wants only to interpret the laws so that CIA officers can conduct tough interrogations without fear of prosecution in international courts.

Critics, including several Republican senators and U.S. military officials, say that changing the accepted standards of the Geneva Conventions would hurt U.S. prestige and endanger American troops captured abroad.

“We have to hold the moral high ground. We’re the nation that people look up to. We can’t lower our standards because others do,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said yesterday during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

President Bush told reporters that Mr. McCain’s position would weaken the administration’s ability to collect vital information from terrorist suspects.

Nonetheless, Mr. McCain and other officials said a compromise can be reached.

“Absolutely, the talks are continuing,” Mr. McCain said. “I’ve supported this president in the war on terror. I’ve supported him on the war in Iraq. I think he’s a friend. I hope he considers me a friend. I believe we can sit down, we can work this out, preserve our Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”

However, it is not clear how far each side is willing to compromise.

“I think the way ahead here is to all come together behind the proposition that the president has made, that we need this CIA program,” National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

During his interview with ABC, Mr. McCain emphasized that he is not opposed to the CIA program.

“I am not saying we should shut down the program,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, agrees with Mr. McCain on the issue and said the administration and Congress are closer than some observers think.

“I think we can get there from here,” Mr. Graham said.

“Fox News Sunday” moderator Chris Wallace noted that many of those opposed to the administration’s plan, including Mr. Graham, Mr. McCain and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, all have military combat experience. In contrast, many of the plan’s supporters, including Mr. Bush, do not.

“If anybody knows about Geneva up close and personal, it’s Senator McCain,” who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said on “Face the Nation.”

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said he isn’t convinced that a compromise can be reached.

“I don’t see a way unless the president gives up on his idea that we’re going to unilaterally modify Geneva.”

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