Bush: We want Guantanamo closed

George Bush has said he wants to shut Guantanamo Bay and send the inmates back to their home countries.

    European leaders urged Bush to close Guantanamo prison

    The US president was discussing the camp, where about 400 detainees are still being held, with European leaders at a summit in Vienna on Wednesday.

    "I'd like to end Guantanamo. I'd like it to be over with," Bush said at a news conference after the talks. "One of the things we will do is we'll send people back to their home countries."

    He did not say when the US would begin returning the detainees.

    Wolfgang Schuessel, the Austrian chancellor whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency, said the Europeans were calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, but they had received a commitment from the US: "no torture, no extraordinary or extra-territorial positions to deal with the terrorists."

    Bush said some of the remaining inmates, who are mainly from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, would have to be tried in US courts. "They're cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they're let out on the street," he said.

    Ruling awaited

    Bush said he was waiting for a ruling from the US Supreme Court before deciding where the Guantanamo prisoners will face trial.
    The Supreme Court is due to rule by June 30 on the legitimacy of the military courts that Bush created to try suspected terrorists after the September 11 attacks.

    The US military indefinitely suspended Guantanamo war crimes tribunals after three prisoners were found hanged in their cells in apparent suicides on June 10. Pre-trial hearings scheduled for last week and this week were put off. The suicide prompted renewed calls for the camp to be closed.

    Thousands of people protested
    in Vienna against US policies

    Most inmates are held as "enemy combatants" and have been at Guantanamo Bay since early 2002 without any formal charges or access to lawyers.

    Bush used the summit to reassure European Union countries that the US was committed to human rights.

    Both sides agreed that the US was not the threat it was sometimes portrayed as. Bush said it was "absurd for people to think that we are more dangerous than Iran".

    "We're a transparent democracy, people know exactly what's on our mind, we debate things in the open, we have a legislative  process that's active," he said

    Schuessel said it was "grotesque to say that America is a threat to the peace in the world compared with North Korea, Iran, a lot of countries".

    Around 1,200 students demonstrated in the north of Vienna, far from the Hofburg palace which hosted the summit, chanting "Bush go home" and "mass murderer".

    Trade issues

    Bush insisted the US was fully committed to reaching an agreement to reduce global trade barriers.

    The pledge followed a warning from the European Commission that the Doha talks,  launched in late 2001, were dead unless the US made more trade concessions.

    "We're committed to a successful round and it's going to take  hard work ... My pledge to our European counterparts is we'll do the  very best we can to reach an agreement that satisfies all parties' desires," Bush said.

    US and EU members are trying
    to resolve trade differences

    "The Europeans have problems with the US position, we have  problems with the European position, we both have problems with the G-20 (a group of emerging market countries) position."

    The US has been under pressure to reduce its official support for farmers, which is seen as lowering world prices and undercutting the ability of farmers in poor countries to compete on  global markets.

    EU is being called on to lower its import tariffs on farm products while both the EU and the US want developing and emerging market economies to become more accessible to imported industrial goods and services.

    Bush left Vienna after the talks for celebrations, to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, in Budapest.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.