WASHINGTON, Dec 5 (AFP): United States (US) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heading to Europe Monday on an offensive aimed at countering deep concerns over reported secret CIA prisons on European soil.
Rice had said she would respond to mounting concern over reports of 'black hole' interrogation centres and clandestine transport flights for terror suspects before she leaves Monday on a five-day tour of Europe. But there was no immediate indication if or when she would meet the press.
According to The Washington Post, however, Rice's posture on the trip to Berlin, Bucharest, Kiev and Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) meeting, would be a firm, offensive one.
"After weeks of being pummelled in the European media over reports about clandestine prisoner transfers and secret detention centres, administration officials have concluded that they need to put European governments on notice that they should back off and begin to emphasise the benefits of intelligence cooperation to their citizens," the paper reported Saturday.
The paper said that while her position, being drawn up by administration officials, had not been released yet, "'the key point will be 'We're all in this together and you need to look at yourselves as much as us,' " one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because Rice's response has not been completed.
Sunday, National security adviser Stephen Hadley said Rice will address press reports of so-called "black hole" interrogation centres.
The European Union this week sent Washington a request for clarification of the reports of the prisons and transport flights in Europe that some media suggested might violate international laws.
Washington has pledged to reply to the letter sent by current EU president Britain. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would not comment on the substance or form, but signalled Friday it might lack details demanded by some.
McCormack denied the prisons issue had produced rifts with US allies but acknowledged they were starting to dominate the discussion of foreign policy and overshadow more positive news.
Rice last visited Berlin in February on her inaugural trip as chief US diplomat to prepare the ground for a visit by President George W. Bush which largely failed to thaw the frosty ties between the two countries.
Former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder enraged Washington with his opposition to the war in Iraq. While Merkel has ruled out sending German troops to Iraq, she has made improving transatlantic relations a priority.
Rice will go on from Berlin to visit Romania, Ukraine and Brussels, for a NATO meeting.