Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to ask Bush about reported prisons, secret flights in Europe

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country assumes the presidency of the 25-nation European Union on Jan. 1, was meeting Thursday with President George W. Bush.

In addition to Austria's coming six months as president of Europe, another subject of the meeting will be reports of secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons in Europe and clandestine flights of terrorist suspects, which Schuessel's spokeswoman, Verena Novotny, said he will bring up.

Bush and other U.S. officials with whom Schuessel will meet are likely to press him to ease opposition to Turkey's membership in the EU. Austria is among EU member nations most against Turkish membership.

Bush has been outspoken in advocating admission of NATO ally Turkey, sometimes to the annoyance of European leaders who say it is none of his business. Turkey and the EU have started accession negotiations, a process expected to take at least 10 years.

Schuessel met Wednesday with Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and had talks scheduled with leaders of the House of Representatives' International Relations Committee.

After meeting Lugar, Schuessel said he and Lugar discussed the reports of the prisons, and Lugar told him, "The problem was in the vagueness in application of the rules." Schuessel said it was important in the context of the European-U.S. dialogue to discuss these issues.

He said he was convinced after listening to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak Wednesday that the United States was committed "to abiding by international law and its commitments to the international convention against torture", reported AP. P.T.

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