Reluctance by other countries to take custody of terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay is delaying Washington’s ability to shut the widely criticised prison camp, US President George W Bush said last night.”I did say it should be a goal of the nation to shut down Guantanamo. I also made it clear that part of the delay was the reluctance of some nations to take back some of the people being held there,” Bush said.
“This is a fairly steep order. A lot of people don’t want killers in their midst, and a lot of these people are killers. The sooner that tribunals could start for inmates of the camp the better it is. It’s not as easy a subject as some may think on the surface,” he said.
The US officials did not specify which countries were reluctant to accept prisoners but in the past the US has transferred detainees to countries including Britain,Australia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan and others.
Washington has faced fierce criticism for the detention without charge of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban members at the Guantanamo prison.
While members of the Bush administration have repeatedly said they would like to close the facility, they also say it is needed in the US-declared war on terrorism.
The US holds 355 detainees at Guantanamo, which was set up to handle prisoners captured after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Of those, the Pentagon says 80 are eligible for release or transfer to another country.
Britain asked the US on Tuesday to release five detainees from Guantanamo who were legal residents of Britain before their detention, although not British nationals.
Pentagon spokesman said the US government was still reviewing the request and no decision had been made.