- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

LONDON — (AP) A British territory was used in the secret transfer of terrorism suspects in 2002, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in an awkward admission yesterday that came after U.S. officials disclosed records of two cases involving detainees.

The disclosure stands to be a further embarrassment to Britain — long criticized for its close alliance with the United States in the war in Iraq and of its complicity in rights abuses during the so-called war on terror.

Britain had repeatedly said it had no evidence it was involved in renditions, but Mr. Miliband said recent private talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice revealed cases of two terrorism suspects who were flown to the British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, a U.S.-run military base.

“An error in the earlier U.S. records search meant that these cases did not come to light,” Mr. Miliband told the House of Commons.

The stops were reportedly for refueling, he said, and detainees never left the plane.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he “shared the disappointment that everybody has” about the stops.

“The important thing now is we put in place the best possible procedures to ensure that this will not happen again,” Mr. Brown said, speaking in Brussels.

Washington disclosed that two flights — one bound for the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and one bound for Morocco, stopped over at Diego Garcia, which Britain leased to the Americans in the 1960s.

U.S. officials have maintained that no terrorism suspects have ever been held on the base but access is highly restricted.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told agency employees in a message yesterday that information previously provided to the British “turned out to be wrong.”

Gordon Johndroe, National Security Council spokesman for President Bush, said the incident was “unfortunate” but will not damage U.S.-Britain cooperation.

“Mistakes were made in the reporting of the information,” he said. “But we will continue to have a good counterterrorism cooperation between the United States and United Kingdom.”

In March, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said there had been no cases of extraordinary rendition involving Britain.

Mr. Miliband said yesterday that in the two cases, a plane with a single detainee stopped to refuel at a U.S. base on Diego Garcia.

“U.S. investigations show no record of any other rendition through Diego Garcia or any other overseas territory, or through the U.K. itself since then,” he said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told journalists the EU executive had asked all EU member states to investigate reports of extraordinary renditions on their soil.

Britain has been among 14 countries accused by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe of colluding with the CIA to transport terrorism suspects to clandestine prisons in third countries.

A parliamentary report has identified at least 1,254 secret CIA flights that entered European airspace after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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