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Britain will not take Guantanamo prisoners despite plea by Barack Obama

Britain will not take Guantanamo prisoners despite plea by Barack Obama

Author: Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
Publication: The Telegraph, UK
Date: January 26, 2009
URL: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/4349265/Britain-will-not-take-Guantanamo-prisoners-despite-plea-by-Barack-Obama.html

Britain will not take any more detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp despite a plea from President Barack Obama for help from Europe.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that Britain had "done our bit" following the nine British nationals and six British residents already received or expected.

"Britain has given that help already," he said. "We have done our bit. We have played an important role in showing that this can be done in a safe and secure way."

European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, gave a warm welcome to the new US President's decision to close the camp within a year. But most were lukewarm about the idea of taking in non-Europeans that the US does not intend to put on trial and who cannot be sent home for fear they might be mistreated.

The issue has become an early test of Europe's relationship with President Obama.

"There was nobody very hot about it," said Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech foreign minister, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"It is not an easy question and it is up to each nation what they will decide."

The ministers failed to reach a conclusion on the fate of up to 60 Guantanamo inmates, from Azerbaijan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Chad, China, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who could face abuse, imprisonment or death if returned home.

European countries are particularly concerned that the US is not yet able to prove that prisoners do not pose security risks.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, expressed the fear that the EU could be accused of hypocrisy if it did not take in detainees after years of criticising the US over the camp.

"There is no question that chief responsibility to do with solving the problem of this detention centre lies with those who set it up, the Americans themselves," he said.

"But it is also a question of our credibility - of whether we support the dismantling of this American camp or not."

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