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News Update
14-08-05, 11:59
U.S. in talks to return Guantanamo detainees

White House hopes deals with Muslim officials will cut prison population


The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is nearing agreements with 10 Muslim governments to return their detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, part of an effort to quicken the pace of transfers and increase the role of countries whose nationals are alleged terrorists.

Washington hopes to conclude the agreements within the next two months, a senior State Department official said.

The United States is also pressing to persuade a European country to accept at least 15 Chinese Uigurs and two Uzbeks ready to be released, but who will not be returned to their home countries for fear they might be abused or tortured, the official said.

Sweden last year turned down a request, a Swedish envoy said Monday. Uigurs are a Muslim ethnic group with a large population in western China.

The agreements with the 10 countries would be in addition to previously reported negotiations with the three nations that have the largest populations at the U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo — Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The United States completed the first such agreement last week with Afghanistan, which has 110 detainees in U.S. custody.

Washington also hopes to reach an agreement soon with Saudi Arabia, which has 129 detainees at Guantanamo. Talks with Pierre Prosper, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, were suspended when Saudi King Fahd died last week.

The 10 other countries include Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait and Morocco. There are at least 19 men from these countries ready for transfer, according to the State Department.

The United States hopes the first round of negotiations will spark wider momentum to finish agreements in other countries, as happened last year with detainees from European countries, Prosper said Monday in an interview.

The administration expects that Guantanamo’s population could be reduced from about 510 inmates to about 100 hard-core detainees whom the United States will not release or transfer because it considers them security risks. Those detainees will be held indefinitely, until what a U.S. official described as the “end of hostilities” in the global struggle against terrorism.