Miliband apologises over rendition flights

Gavin Cordon,Pa
Thursday 21 February 2008 14:35
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Foreign Secretary David Miliband apologised to MPs today after admitting that US "special rendition" flights had twice landed on British soil in contravention of earlier Government assurances.

Mr Miliband said in a Commons statement that on two occasions in 2002 US flights carrying terrorist suspects stopped to refuel at the airbase on the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia.

He told MPs that US officials informed the UK last week of the flights, which took place contrary to earlier assurances given by the Americans.

He said his concern about the case was shared by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

"We both agree that the mistakes made in these two cases are not acceptable and she shares my deep regret that this information has only just come to light," he said.

Mr Miliband told MPs that he was "very sorry indeed" to have to correct previous statements made by then prime minister Tony Blair and foreign secretary Jack Straw that rendition flights had not used British bases.

He said the cases involving Diego Garcia had not come to light before because of an "error" in an earlier US records search.

"The House and the Government will share deep disappointment at this news, and about its late emergence. That disappointment is shared by our US allies," he said.

"They recognise the absolute imperative for the British Government to provide accurate information to Parliament. I reaffirm the Government's commitment to that imperative today."

Mr Miliband said that in each of the two cases, the aircraft involved had been carrying a single detainee - neither of them British - who did not leave the plane while it was on the ground at Diego Garcia.

One of those detainees has since been released but the other is still being held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Miliband said the Americans had given an assurance that no detainees had been held on Diego Garcia and that US records showed no record of any other rendition through Diego Garcia or any other UK territory.

Nevertheless, he said he has now ordered officials to draw up a list of all flights about which concerns had been expressed regarding the use of UK territory.

He said it would be presented to the Americans with a view to seeking their "specific assurance" that none of the flights had been used for rendition purposes.

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