Friday, January 9, 2009

Britain 'formally asked to take Guantánamo prisoners'

Britain 'formally asked to take Guantánamo prisoners'

Britain has been formally asked by the US to receive foreign terrorist suspects when the controversial Guantánamo Bay detention centre is closed, it has emerged.

Robert Tuttle, the outgoing US ambassador to Britain, has confirmed that negotiations over prisoners in the facility in Cuba are at an advanced stage.

Barack Obama, the US President-Elect, has promised to close the camp. Washington is attempting to find new locations for many of its 250 prisoners. While some suspects are due to be tried in the US, dozens whose cases will not be heard so quickly will require relocation.

It was reported last week that the Government was preparing to aid Mr Obama by agreeing to house some of the prisoners. The policy was publicly backed by Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general.

Mr Tuttle said that discussions were ongoing. "I would hope that if the UK could see its way through to take some detainees that would certainly be helpful," he told The Times. "You have taken back four or five. Certainly there have been discussions over that issue."

"The Bush administration has made a number of attempts - some successful, some not successful - to get other countries to take these remaining detainees. I am hopeful that some will be taken before January 20 and hopefully some taken afterwards."

Albania and Portugal have agreed to take some suspects, while Australia has rejected the proposal.

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