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RAMSTEIN, Germany — Reports of secret CIA flights allegedly used to transport terror suspects throughout Europe overshadowed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Germany this week.

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported that German air traffic controllers provided their government a list of 437 flights suspected of being operated by the CIA in German air space. The magazine said the CIA used two planes registered as private aircraft that accounted for 283 flights or landings in 2002 and 2003 in Ramstein, Berlin and Frankfurt.

Ramstein Air Base officials are staying quiet about the alleged CIA flights. Ramstein’s 435th Air Base Wing declined to comment on the matter Tuesday, referring all questions to the CIA.

Rice met with Germany’s newly elected Chancellor Angela Merkel for the first time Tuesday.

Merkel has made improving German-American relations a top foreign policy objective for her newly formed government. But Tuesday’s joint press conference was dominated by questions about U.S. terrorism policies.

Prior to leaving for Germany, Rice had said the U.S. could not comment about matters relating to the gathering of intelligence information, the success of military operations or the course of court proceedings.

German officials noted to reporters that the flight list gave no indication of what the suspected CIA aircraft were carrying. Transporting detainees to countries outside of the United States is known as “extraordinary rendition.” Once outside the U.S., terrorism suspects would be without American legal protection.

The Washington Post recently reported on the existence of alleged secret CIA interrogation jails in eight countries, with Romania and Poland singled out in eastern Europe. The two countries denied the allegations.

It was the second time this year that a U.S. Air Force base in Europe has been reported as a CIA transport site for a terror suspect. In March, the Post reported that Italian investigators showed up at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy and demanded records of any U.S. planes that had flown into or out of the joint U.S.-Italian military installation. The Milan investigators believe that a radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was abducted in February 2003 by CIA operatives and flown out of the country through the air base, the Post reported.

Base officials contacted in March declined to comment on the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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