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Rice can't rule out future US abuse scandals

AFP | December 8 2005

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated Thursday that the United States does not practise or condone torture, but could not rule out future abuse scandals because no democracy is perfect.

Speaking at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, she also said she appreciated the support she had received from European counterparts in the CIA secret prisons row.

"The discussion was extremely important, it was enlightening. It was an opportunity to put this very difficult issue on the agenda ... among friends," she said, the day after a closed-door dinner with her NATO counterparts Wednesday evening.

"The United States is quite clear and quite determined to carry out the president's policy. The US does not engage in torture, doesn't condone it, doesn't expect its employees to engage in it.

But she added: "Will there be abuses of policy? That is entirely possible. Because just because you're a democracy it doesn't mean you're perfect."

She cited notably the Abu Ghraib abuse scandals, but underlined that those responsible were punished, as would anyone found guilty in future cases.

"That is the only promise that we can make to people: if we find abuses we will investigate them fully and punish them."

"We are a nation of laws. The president of the United States is not going to ask US citizens to violate US law or to violate our international obligations."

The CIA secret prison row has clouded a four-country trip to Europe by Rice, who arrived in Brussels on Wednesday after stops in Germany, Romania and Ukraine.

But Rice appeared to have cleared the air, at least with her European counterparts, at Wednesday night's dinner.

"I appreciate the supportive comments that a number of colleagues have made," she said. "I appreciate the fact that people recognize the dilemmas we face."

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