The British Foreign Office privately accepts that CIA rendition flights did pass through its territory, a diplomatic source told United Press International.
The well-placed source said the Foreign Office “totally accepts” that the United States used British airfields to transfer prisoners abroad for interrogation, and is “extremely worried” about the political consequences.
The revelation comes amid growing signs of divergence between London and Washington over the way in which the war on terror should be conducted.
When British Prime Minister Tony Blair learnt in April 2003 that the United States had bombed a Baghdad hotel in which several media organizations were housed, killing three journalists, he “literally jumped out of his chair,” the source told UPI. The Foreign Office was “horrified,” considering the attack to be “obscene,” the source said.
London took the same attitude towards a U.S. suggestion that it would attack the Qatar headquarters of the Arabic language television al-Jazeera, the source said.
Foreign Office officials threatened to resign if the Americans went ahead with the attacks, revealed in a Downing Street memo leaked to the British media earlier this year.
Blair reportedly talked U.S. President George W. Bush out of the attacks, warning it could fuel a worldwide backlash. The Mirror newspaper quoted a source as saying: “There’s no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn’t want him to do it.”