EU split over taking Guantanamo inmates
Several EU countries said the bloc should help the new US close the illegal Guantanamo jail by taking in inmates, while others remained reluctant.
Several European Union countries said on Monday the bloc should help the new U.S. President Barack Obama close the illegal Guantanamo jail by taking in inmates, while others remained reluctant.
President Barack Obama last week ordered the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba within a one-year deadline. The prison, known for aggressive interrogation methods, is widely seen as a stain on America's human rights record.
"We need to shake hands with the United States. It is a new fresh start, Guantanamo has been closed and we are very pleased," Finland's Alexander Stubb said on arrival at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
The issue will be discussed behind closed doors during lunch.
They number 55-60, including Chinese Muslim Uighurs who Washington says cannot return to China because they would face persecution, together with Libyans, Uzbeks and Algerians also seen at risk.
"This is an American problem and they have to solve it but we'll be ready to help if necessary ... I think the answer of the EU will be yes," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, asked if the bloc would be willing to take in some detainees.
European governments have for years called on United states for the illegal camp to be closed under the way the Bush administration waged its "war on terrorism". However analysts say that taking in Guantanamo detainees raises many tricky legal issues for them.
"It is not an easy question and it is up to each nation what they will decide," Karel Schwarzenberg, Foreign Minister for the Czech EU Presidency told reporters.
Some countries including the Netherlands and Austria have said that they were still not ready to take in inmates and the German government is split on the issue.
"The government cannot decree to take on people, that would be a breach of our legal system and would have fatal consequences," Austrian Foreign minister Michael Spindelegger told national news agency APA on Sunday.
"We have a clear legal situation: you can either immigrate or ask for asylum. We should stick to that."
Reuters Last Mod: 26 Ocak 2009, 16:45