European officials admits Rice's explanation for prisoner policy

European foreign ministers attempted Thursday to make peace with the United States concerning treatment of terrorist suspects, with many saying they were satisfied with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's explanations of U.S. policy.However, Rice gave no guarantees that detainees would not be abused again.Lingering concerns were evident when Dutch officials said they would press to set up a prison in Afghanistan so any suspects captured by Dutch troops during NATO operations there would not be transferred to Guantбnamo Bay or other American facilities.

The controversy over secret CIA prisons and U.S. detainee policy dominated a gathering here to approve a plan for the NATO-led security force to send as many as 6,000 troops to begin patrolling the southern part of Afghanistan, relieving some of the burden on U.S. troops. The Netherlands is expected to supply about 1,200 troops for the mission, which will bring NATO for the first time into the most dangerous territory of the country invaded by the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Rice met for dinner in Brussels on Wednesday with 31 of her European colleagues limited to the foreign ministers themselves, which officials said allowed for a full airing of their concerns over U.S. policy without political posturing.

Some ministers, such as Bernard Bot of the Netherlands, had indicated they still had deep concerns despite a weeklong effort by Rice to defuse the tensions in Europe. But afterward, ministers reported they were satisfied."Secretary Rice has covered basically all of our concerns," Bot said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added that Rice "has reiterated that in the United States international obligations are not interpreted differently than in Europe."Some legal and human-rights experts in the United States pointed to possible loopholes in her statement.

Rice offered a further refinement to address questions at a news conference Thursday: "We are a nation of laws," she said. "The president of the United States is not going to ask American citizens to violate U.S. law or to violate our international obligations." But Rice sidestepped a question about whether there were any loopholes in her statements. She also told reporters she can give no assurances that terrorism suspects won't be mistreated again despite what she called clear U.S. rules against torture, reports Seattle Times. I.L.

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