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Sweden begins "quick" CIA plane investigation

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15:42 CET+01:00
Sweden launched an investigation on Thursday after reports that planes used by the US spy agency CIA landed at Swedish airports, the latest in a series of such probes by concerned European nations.

The government said it had opened a probe into a number of flights to and from several airports in the country since 2002.

The decision follows a report by the Swedish news agency TT on Monday that several presumed CIA planes had secretly touched down here. Similar reports have surfaced across the Nordic region as well as in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

A number of those countries have opened inquiries into whether the planes may have been used for the transit, or rendition, of terror suspects allegedly subjected to extra-judicial detention and torture.

"The government has today asked the Civil Aviation Administration and the Civil Aviation Authority to investigate the circumstances around flights to and from Swedish airports conducted with aircraft registered in the US," a Swedish statement said.

"The period under investigation covers several years, from January 1, 2002 up until today. This assignment should be completed as quickly as possible and no later than December 8, 2005."

On Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson indicated Sweden might ask Washington for an explanation.

"If we think (the concerns) are valid we will then address the question to the Americans ... about what they have transported in these planes," he told reporters in Stockholm.

One of the flights being investigated in Sweden involves a N168BF Raytheon Hawker owned by Wells Fargo Bank, which owns a number of planes used at the US naval base of Guantanamo, in Cuba, where hundreds of so-called "war on terror" detainees are being held.

That plane landed at an airport in the southern city of Malmö on September 9th this year. The same plane reportedly breached Danish airspace later the same day on route to Britain.

Another plane, a N50BH Gulfstream III owned by Crystal Jet Aviation and reportedly used by the CIA in the past for prisoner transports and flights to Guantanamo, was at Stockholm's main airport Arlanda between June 21 and 23, 2002, before flying on to Iceland, according to TT.

That same plane reportedly landed at Norway's international airport outside Oslo last July 20.

The Norwegian government said Wednesday it had spoken to the US ambassador in Oslo who had denied allegations that US aircraft that had landed in Norway were carrying prisoners.

Oslo "has been assured by the Americans that no prisoner transport planes have landed in Norway," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said.

The Danish government recently admitted that CIA aircraft carrying terror suspects to countries where torture is common have violated its airspace some 20 times since 2001 and that such planes have landed on Danish soil.

One of the planes, bearing the registration number N168D and owned by Devon Holding and Leasing, which reportedly regularly leases planes to the CIA, passed through Danish airspace on October 3 on route from Iceland to Budapest, according to the government.

Meanwhile earlier this month, Icelandic Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson denied allegations from political opponents that the country's government had given Washington formal permission to use the island as a stop-over point for CIA prisoner planes.

On Thursday however, the Icelandic daily Morgunbladid reported that a Casa CN-235 plane owned by Devon Holding and Leasing had landed late Wednesday at Reykjavik airport en route from Scotland to Canada, and left early Thursday.

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AFP

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