WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted Wednesday that the United States had mishandled the case of a Canadian who was deported to Syria and who has said he was tortured there, but she stopped short of an apology.
Ms. Rice spoke in response to a lawmaker's question about the man, Maher Arar, who was arrested during a stopover in New York in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he has said he was tortured and imprisoned for a year.
"We do not think that this case was handled as it should have been," Ms. Rice told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "We do absolutely not wish to transfer anyone to any place in which they might be tortured."
The Canadian government has cleared Mr. Arar of any links to terrorist groups. It has apologized and paid him $10.9 million in compensation and legal fees.
"I am pleased that the U.S. administration has taken the encouraging step of acknowledging that my case was mishandled," Mr. Arar said in a statement from Canada. The case has become a sore spot in relations between Canada and the United States, and Canada has asked the United States to remove Mr. Arar from its security watch list.
Mr. Arar, a software engineer who was born in Syria, is still prohibited from entering the United States, although a Canadian inquiry found that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had wrongly told United States border agents that he was suspected of being an extremist.
Last week Democratic and Republican lawmakers urged the Bush administration to apologize to Mr. Arar, who is married and has two children. Ms. Rice did not apologize in her comments on Wednesday.
© 2007 Reuters