LONDON In tones freighted with frustration, Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, told the House of Commons on Thursday that, "contrary to earlier explicit assurances," the Central Intelligence Agency had confirmed using an American-operated airfield on a British island in the Indian Ocean for refueling two "rendition" flights carrying terrorism suspects in 2002.
The American acknowledgment contradicted previous assurances by the United States to Britain's government that no such flights had landed on British territory or passed through British airspace. Each flight carried a single detainee and stopped on the island of Diego Garcia.
Although the CIA attributed its earlier denials to a "flawed records search," the admission could add to the animosity the government here has aroused over its alliance with the United States in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Miliband's statement prompted protests from members of Parliament of various parties and from British-based human rights groups that have contended for years that Britain was a knowing or unknowing partner in the American use of rendition flights. The term gained much of its notoriety from the American practice after Sept. 11, 2001, of transporting terrorism suspects secretly to other countries for interrogation.
The director of the CIA, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, informed British officials of the 2002 flights last week during a visit to London. He issued a statement on Thursday to the agency's staff in Washington saying a fresh review of agency records had shown that the CIA had erred in assuring Britain previously that "there had been no rendition flights involving their soil or airspace" since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Miliband said that he had received a personal apology from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and that she had told him she shared his "deep regret" about the earlier false denials.
Miliband told the House of Commons he was "very sorry indeed" to have to revise the Labor government's repeated assurances that it knew of no American rendition flights involving British airspace or airfields. The British assurances, in 2005, 2006 and 2007, were given, among others, by Tony Blair, who said in 2005 as prime minister that he was "not prepared to believe" that the Americans had broken faith with Britain over the issue.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, visiting Brussels, Belgium, said: "It is unfortunate that this was not known, and it was unfortunate it happened without us knowing that it had happened."