BERLIN – The German interior minister said Sunday the government had dropped plans to ask Pakistan to extradite suspected Sept. 11 planner Ramzi Binalshibh, avoiding a potential conflict with the United States, which wants to take custody of the alleged terrorist.
Otto Schily said that given the "terrible attacks of Sept. 11 occurred in New York and Washington, it goes without saying that Americans have priority for his extradition."
Germany has an international arrest warrant for Binalshibh charging him with more than 3,000 counts of murder for allegedly conspiring in the city of Hamburg with hijacker Mohamed Atta and other Sept. 11 plotters to attack the United States.
On Saturday, after learning of Binalshibh's arrest in Pakistan last week, Schily said he would like to see the 30-year-old Yemeni brought back to Germany for trial.
The United States has not issued any public indictment against Binalshibh, but he is named as an unindicted coconspirator in the case of Zacharias Moussaoui, the designated 20th hijacker who was arrested before Sept. 11.
U.S. officials on Sunday said they would work with Pakistani authorities to take custody of Binalshibh.
Tensions between Germany and the United States have been high recently, with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder being increasingly outspoken in opposing a U.S. attack on Iraq.
Had Binalshibh been extradited to Germany it could have caused more conflict between the allies, as Germany -- like other European Union countries -- generally refuses to turn over suspects to a country where they could face the death penalty.