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Australia says no on guantamo detainees &britain is reluctant

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Njowepo, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. Njowepo

    Njowepo JF-Expert Member

    Jan 3, 2009
    Joined: Feb 26, 2008
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    Published: January 3, 2009
    SYDNEY, Australia — Australia said Friday that it would not agree to American requests to accept more detainees from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and Britain signaled reluctance to take in significant numbers of former inmates, underscoring the difficulties both the departing and incoming administrations in Washington face in trying to close the camp, which has stirred bitter controversy around the world.
    Australia’s acting prime minister, Julia Gillard, said the Bush administration had twice approached Australia about taking prisoners from the camp, at the American naval base in Cuba.
    “The Bush administration first approached Australia in early 2008 with a request to resettle a small group of detainees from Guantánamo in Australia,” Ms. Gillard said Friday in a statement. “After appropriate consideration, Australia declined to allow resettlement of that small group in Australia.”
    Early last month, the White House again appealed to Australia and “a number of other friends and allies of the United States,” she said, adding that the request had not come from President-elect Barack Obama. Mr. Obama, who is to be sworn in on Jan. 20, has pledged to close the camp.
    The Pentagon, in transferring three Algerian prisoners to Bosnia on Dec. 16, said some 250 inmates remained at Guantánamo. About 60 have been cleared for release but cannot be sent to their home countries, mostly out of concern that they would be tortured or persecuted. They are from countries including Algeria, China, Libya and Tunisia.
    “Departure of these detainees,” the Pentagon said, “is subject to ongoing discussions between the United States and other nations.”
    If the 60 were resettled, the challenge of closing Guantánamo would be within sight. About 100 of the remaining detainees are Yemenis, who could be repatriated once American officials were satisfied that they would be properly monitored. The remaining detainees could be transferred to prisons in the United States.
    In early December, Portugal said it was willing to resettle some of the 60 cleared detainees and urged other European countries to accept some as well. A couple of weeks later, Germany said it would consider doing so if the camp were closed.
    On Friday, Britain reaffirmed its desire to see the camp close. So far Britain has secured the release of nine British nationals and four former residents of Britain. A Foreign Office spokeswoman, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of civil service rules, said that Britain would also seek the release of two other former residents, but that Washington had not asked Britain to take any more detainees.
    But she said Britain expected other countries to join in the effort. “We recognize that the United States will require assistance from its allies and partners” for Guantánamo to be closed, she said, adding, “We have been pushing for our partners to follow our lead.”
    Ms. Gillard, the Australian deputy prime minister who is serving as the acting prime minister while Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, is on vacation, was earlier quoted by the Australian news media as saying that the country would consider resettling detainees on a case-by-case basis, subject to “rigorous assessment.”
    But later Friday she said, “Notwithstanding that it is unlikely Australia would accept these detainees, given the fact that the Bush administration has formally approached Australia, the request demands proper consideration.”
    Australia, a close ally of the United States, has long been part of its military effort in Iraq, and Australian troops remain there.
    But Mr. Rudd’s center-left Labor Party has had its differences with the Bush administration. Before coming to power in 2007, Mr. Rudd was sharply critical of Guantánamo and called repeatedly for the repatriation of two Australians held there. The men have since returned to Australia.