- CIA - Ireland - Middle East - USA
Ireland will ensure police have the power to search US planes to check the CIA is not transporting suspected extremists through its airports, a junior government coalition partner said Saturday.
The Green Party, the second-biggest group in Prime Minister Brian Cowen's ruling coalition, said a cabinet sub-committee has agreed to review laws that mean police can only search planes if they have proof of wrongdoing.
The party has been pressing for progress on government commitments over the inspection of planes for possible rendition of suspects in the United States' "war on terror" through Shannon airport in the southwest.
Ciaran Cuffe, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, said the government would contact the transition team of whichever candidate wins the US election next week to discuss the issue.
It would seek a commitment to end "extraordinary rendition" -- transferring suspects to secret prisons in countries with less than stringent interrogation rules -- as well as interrogation techniques that are considered to be torture.
Dublin would also call upon the new administration in Washington to close the Guantanamo detention camp on Cuba "as soon as possible".
"The Cabinet committee will examine and strengthen legal provisions to ensure that Gardai (Irish police) and airport authorities have adequate legal powers for search and inspection of aircraft," Cuffe said.
"This may involve strengthening the provisions of the Air Navigation and Transport Acts."
Cuffe said he was "delighted" that the government "had decided to send a clear signal to the incoming US administration".
His party has repeatedly argued that ordinary citizens "could not in practice be expected to have enough prima facie evidence to prompt Gardai to board US planes", adding police were also hampered by private property laws.
Former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern had accepted US assurances that the CIA was not transporting terrorist suspects through Irish airports.
Ahern said his government had been repeatedly told by US authorities, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that no prisoners had been or would be transferred through Ireland.
Michael Higgins, foreign affairs spokesman for the second opposition Labour party, welcomed the government's intentions but said it was unclear what the proposed action would achieve in practice.
He urged ministers to back a bill he had proposed that would allow for the inspection of any civilian aircraft on lease to a foreign state, and insist on more than simple diplomatic assurances on the issue of torture.
Shannon, the first airport across the North Atlantic from the United States, is an important re-fuelling stop for US military planes.
Thousands of US troops have passed through the airport going to and from the Iraq war.