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Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Macedonia denies 'CIA abduction'
Ljubomir Mihajlovski
Ljubomir Mihajlovski says there is no evidence of foreign agents
Macedonia's interior minister has denied claims that US agents abducted a German man in his country and flew him to Afghanistan for interrogation.

Ljubomir Mihajlovski told a visiting team of European members of parliament that the claim was "just speculation".

The MEPs are following up a report - released on Wednesday - that the CIA used the EU to run hundreds of flights taking terror suspects for questioning.

German citizen Khalid al-Masri is suing the CIA for alleged wrongful jailing.

Mr Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, says he was kidnapped on the Macedonian border in 2003 and, after a brief period of detention in the capital, Skopje, was taken to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Mr Masri says, his US captors interrogated and tortured him.

He told the European Parliament in March that he was held there for five months before finally being freed in Albania.

EU flight data included in Wednesday's report shows that a CIA plane did leave Skopje for Kabul in January 2003 - at around the time Mr Masri says he was abducted.

'Passport stamped'

Mr Mihajlovski said after a meeting with the delegation of MEPs that "there are no indications that foreign intelligence, and particularly the CIA, were involved in this case".

"It is just speculation that al-Masri left Macedonia by airplane," he said.

He told the EU parliamentarians Mr Masri had left Macedonia by land - and had a stamp in his passport proving that.

On Wednesday, MEPs said the CIA had run more than 1,000 flights within the EU since 2001, often transporting terror suspects for questioning overseas.

The US admits to some of the flights but denies condoning torture.

US officials have acknowledged Mr Masri was mistaken for someone else and had been wrongly detained.

MEPs' investigation

A European Parliament report said many EU states had ignored the hundreds of CIA flights that had used their airports since 2001.

It is hard to think that those stopovers were used simply to refuel
Claudio Fava
Italian MEP

The report's author, Italian Socialist MEP Claudio Fava, singled out Sweden, Italy and Bosnia, which is not an EU member, for particular criticism.

A string of former detainees have come forward with stories alleging kidnap and transport by the US for interrogation in third countries - a process known as "extraordinary rendition".

Some have provided detailed accounts of alleged torture carried out in secret prisons outside EU or US jurisdiction.

Mr Fava accused European governments of breaching the Chicago aviation convention, under which all flights used for police purposes have to declare their route, destination, the names of crew and passengers.

None had been asked to do so by any European government.

Moreover, the flight paths, confirmed by the European air safety organisation Eurocontrol, "seem rather bizarre", he told the BBC.

According to Eurocontrol, the Boeing plane used for the alleged abduction of Mr Masri flew on another occasion, between 22 and 23 September, 2003, from Kabul to Poland to Romania to Morocco and to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Mr Fava said.

"It is hard to think that those stopovers were used simply to refuel," he said.

The committee of MEPs has until next January to complete its investigation.

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