Merkel Critical of U.S. Prison

From Reuters

In an interview published Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Washington should close its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp and find other ways of dealing with terrorism suspects.

"An institution like Guantanamo can and should not exist in the longer term," Merkel told the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, days before her first visit to the United States. "Different ways and means must be found for dealing with these prisoners."

Merkel has vowed to repair ties with the United States, severely strained over the U.S.-led Iraq invasion, which her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, strongly opposed.

But there was no sign she would hesitate to speak out on issues when there is disagreement. Asked about her comments at a news conference later in the day, she said, "That's my opinion and my view, and I'll say it elsewhere just as I have expressed it here."

She said she would not demand the immediate closure of the detention center when she meets President Bush on Friday. "My talks with leaders of other countries don't consist of my expressing demands, but of exchanging views," she said.

There is widespread skepticism in Germany about the way the United States is conducting its campaign against terrorism, compounded by the recent scandal over the CIA's alleged abduction and detention of German citizen Khaled Masri -- viewed by many to be a mistake.

She also commented on relations with Russia and the European Union. Merkel described relations with the United States as a "friendship," but said the term "strategic partnership" would be more fitting to describe Germany's ties with Moscow.

"I don't think we share as many of the same values yet with Russia as we do with the United States," she said. "But we have a huge interest in seeing Russia develop in a sensible way."

Merkel, who will meet President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow days after her Washington trip, often criticized Schroeder for forging "exclusive" ties with Russia at the expense of relations with smaller European countries.

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