Poland: defense minister meets with Rumsfeld under cloud of speculation over secret prisons

Poland's defense minister met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday amid speculation that Poland hosted secret CIA prisons. It was unclear whether Radek Sikorski's discussion with Rumsfeld touched on the allegations, which have been repeatedly denied by the Polish government.

Neither Sikorski nor Rumsfeld spoke to the press after their meeting. The speculation has "put our country in a very uncomfortable political position with our European allies," Sikorski told The Washington Times in a story published Wednesday. "Poland has always seen itself as a good friend of America and a strong member of the EU. This is a controversy we truly do not need right now," he said.

The talks at the Pentagon were understood to have dealt with plans for Poland to replace NATO in 2007 as the commanding force for allied operations in Afghanistan, where peacekeeping and reconstruction are under way following the 2001 ouster of the Taliban militia and the al-Qaida rebels they harbored.

They also were said to have discussed the speedy entry of Ukraine into NATO. Both Poland and the United States are pushing for Ukraine's entry now that the former Soviet Republic has a democratically elected government.

Sikorski also reiterated government denials following a Monday night report by ABC News that two secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe were closed last month. The report, which ABC attributed to current and former CIA officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the prisons were shut down after Human Rights Watch said it had evidence suggesting such facilities existed in Romania and Poland.

On the issue of Iraq, Sikorski said security in the Polish-run sector in the central part of the country is good and Iraqi forces there are increasingly able to handle peacekeeping chores. "If the rest of Iraq looked like our zone, Iraq would be in pretty good shape," he said in the interview Tuesday.

Before leaving for Washington, Sikorski said meetings with top U.S. military officials would help Poland reach a decision within the next few weeks whether to keep its 1,500 soldiers in central Iraq or stick to the last government's plan to bring them home next month, reported AP. P.T.

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