She came to power vowing to strengthen links with Washington but it is amid a trans-Atlantic row that Angela Merkel welcomed the US Secretary of State to Berlin. Condoleezza Rice is at the start of a European tour which has been overshadowed by claims that secret CIA flights have been used to transport terror suspects throughout the continent. Despite the controversy, the new chancellor reaffirmed her desire to build bridges – saying that not only European integration but also a trans-Atlantic partnership was in Germany’s interest.It is claimed that the CIA made extensive use of German airspace and airbases and that it mistakenly flew a German citizen to Afghanistan, holding him for months. Rice robustly defended US methods in what Washington calls its “war on terror”. “The United States does not condone torture,” she said. “It is against US law to be involved in torture or conspiracy to commit torture and it is also against US international obligations.” But she added: “We have an obligation to defend our people and we will use every lawful means to do so.” It appears questions over US methods will not fade away on her next stop – Romania. Human rights groups claim the country housed one of several alleged secret CIA prisons – something Bucharest denies. Rice held talks with Romanian leader Traian Basescu and signed a deal allowing the US to set up military bases on Romanian soil.