European Officials Seek Answers on Secret Prisons

European lawmakers accused European Union countries Thursday of failing to address allegations of CIA secret prisons and flights across the continent and demanded to know "who was on those flights, where they went."

Allegations the CIA hid and interrogated key Al Qaeda suspects at Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe were first reported in The Washington Post on Nov. 2. A day later, Human Rights Watch said it had evidence the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania.

Sarah Ludford, a British member of the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, said Thursday it was time for answers.

"I am not at all reassured that there is sufficient determination by [member states] to get to the bottom of this and establish the truth," Ludford said. "The allegations are now beyond speculation. We now have sufficient evidence involving CIA flights. We need to know who was on those flights, where they went."

Several EU governments have launched formal investigations into the allegations, but so far most have only vigorously denied media reports about apparent aircraft landings and secret jails.

The prime ministers of Spain and Italy, meeting in Rome, also said Thursday that neither country had any evidence of any illegal CIA activities. Spanish authorities have investigated at least 10 stopovers on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca by private planes described in Spanish media reports as being operated for the CIA, and a smaller number of similar stopovers in the Canary Islands.

Daria Pesce, the lawyer representing Robert Seldon Lady, former Milan CIA station chief and one of 22 purported CIA agents accused in the kidnapping of a radical Egyptian cleric on a Milan street in 2003, said the Italian secret services had to know about it.

The cleric, Osma Moustafa Hassan Nasr, was flown to Egypt, Milan prosecutors say, in an abduction purportedly part of the CIA's program of "extraordinary rendition."

"I believe the (Italian) secret services knew" about the alleged kidnapping, she said. "They should have known."

The Italian government has consistently denied that government or secret service officials had any knowledge.

The EU civil liberties panel said the full European parliament would decide in December whether to launch a formal investigation into reports the CIA interrogated Al Qaeda suspects at Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe and used European airports to transfer prisoners.

"This affair hits Europe and very deeply affects the confidence of our people. Yet EU governments have little interest and will to sort this out," said German Green deputy Johannes Vogenhuber.

The committee also demanded that the EU's air safety organization provide flight logs and details of several dozen suspect planes that flew through Europe.

"Do we give the CIA the benefit of doubt? I don't know if we want to do that. Just look at history," said Dutch deputy Sophia in't Veld.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said Monday he will propose the suspension of voting rights for any nation found to have hosted a secret detention center.

The European Union has requested a formal response from the Bush administration about the reports. The United States will answer "to the best of our ability," the State Department said, without setting a date for the reply.

Clandestine detention centers would violate the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty binding on all European countries.

While Romanian officials have denied the existence of a secret CIA prison, they have been vague about the issue of possible transit of prisoners through Romanian territory.

Poland President Aleksander Kwasniewski has said his country has never allowed the CIA to hold prisoners on its territory. On Tuesday, he told reporters in Brussels he had no information on possible CIA flights.