Ex-president OK'd CIA site, denies knowing what it was for

AP News
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Posted: Apr 27, 2015 11:44 AM
Ex-president OK'd  CIA site, denies knowing what it was for

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A former Romanian president has acknowledged approving the CIA's request for a site in Romania, but said he would have refused had he known how it would be used.

Ion Iliescu, president from 2000 to 2004, suggested he believed Romania had hosted CIA "black sites" — prisons outside the U.S. where suspected terrorists were held and subjected to harsh interrogation.

Romanian authorities had long denied reports they hosted a CIA secret prison, but Iliescu said last week he approved a request for a site in 2002-2003. He was widely criticized for his remarks.

Iliescu wrote on this blog Monday that "I would surely have taken another decision" if he had known what the CIA was doing.

He did not mention the location of the site, its size or whether there was more than one.

The Associated Press has reported there were CIA black sites at a U.S. air base near the Black Sea port of Constanta and one in Bucharest. Romanian leaders have denied these reports.

Rights groups, European officials and media have reported there were also CIA sites in Poland and Lithuania.

Iliescu said Romania "assumed commitments.....in Romania's interests. For all of these there is a cost."

Iliescu denied he had agreed to the CIA's request in exchange for getting U.S. support for Romania joining NATO, which it did in 2004.

He said speculation that his recent comments served Russian interests was "ridiculous and degrading for Romania."

Polish leaders also denied the existence of CIA sites until the U.S. Senate' Intelligence Committee released a report in December on the CIA's practices. Former Prime Minister Leszek Miller and former President Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted they had cooperated with U.S. officials who needed a quiet location to question suspects. They said that at the time they had no knowledge of abuse taking place there. By allowing the site, they broke Polish law.

A former high-ranking communist, Iliescu was a key figure in the 1989 anti-communist revolt, and was elected president three times, in 1990, 1992 and 2000.

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Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland contributed to this report.