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Europe
Ireland to take Guantanamo inmates
Two detainees to be allowed to live in country within "next couple of months".
Last Modified: 29 Jul 2009 14:38 GMT
 Ahern said 'the transfer of the two detainees is expected within the next couple of months' [EPA]

Ireland has said it will accept two detainees from Guantanamo Bay, the latest European country to help Barack Obama, the US president, to fulfil his pledge to close the camp in Cuba.

The two men, reportedly Uzbeks, are expected to travel to Ireland in the "next couple of months," Dermot Ahern, the Irish justice minister, said on Wednesday.

"In making this decision I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the centre at Guantanamo Bay, in part by  transferring detainees no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries, to other countries willing to accept them," Ahern said.

The minister said he had informed Dan Rooney, the US ambassador to Ireland, of the decision, which follows a visit by Irish officials to Washington and Guantanamo last week.

Privacy issue

Ahern noted that he had been the first European Union minister to call for the closure of the facility in Cuba, which was set up by George Bush, the former US president.

"The [Irish] government has consistently called for its closure since then," Ahern said.

With regard to travel arrangements for the men, he said: "A definite timetable has yet to be established, [but] the transfer of the two detainees is expected within the next couple of months."

Media reports have suggested the two inmates are Uzbek nationals, but a justice ministry spokesman declined to comment, and Ahern said the men's privacy would be respected.

Underlining the difficult conditions in which they had been detained for a number of years, Ahern said they would need to be given time and space to adjust to their new circumstances when they arrive.

Pledge doubts

Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year, as one of his first announcements after taking office in January, but questions have been raised over whether it can be achieved.

On June 15, EU foreign ministers agreed a deal with the US on transferring Guantanamo detainees, but stressed that the decision to accept any inmate was one for individual European governments.

On the same day, Obama announced that Italy had agreed to accept three detainees, while Portugal has since said it was ready to take in two or three, and Hungary has offered to accept one or two.

Four detainees of Uighur origin were resettled on the British overseas territory of Bermuda in early June, although it later emerged that London had not been consulted on the matter.

Other countries which have said they may be willing to accept former detainees include Belgium, Britain, France and Spain.

The EU-US agreement stops short of insisting that Washington help finance resettlement operations, noting only that "the United  States will consider contributing to the costs incurred by EU member states."

The prospect of transferring the remaining approximately 240 inmates in Guantanamo to top security jails in the US remains deeply unpopular in the US Congress.

Source:
Agencies
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