Published: Wednesday December 31, 2008
Britain is now preparing to take in detainees from Guantanamo Bay to help US president-elect Barack Obama shut down the prison camp, The Times newspaper said Thursday, citing government sources.
London has previously said it would consider any US requests to take in prisoners on a case by case basis.
But The Times said Britain had now decided to support moves to rehouse those detainees still left in the camp, which is on a US sovereign naval base on Cuba.
Government departments are discussing the subject, with the Foreign Office pushing for a deal and a final decision expected to be made by the Cabinet, the daily said.
The Foreign Office said it recognised that the US authorities would need "assistance from allies and partners" to shut down Guantanamo. London's established position is that the camp should be closed.
Obama, who takes office on January 20, has pledged to shut down the "war on terror internment camp" in a move he called rebuilding "America's moral stature in the world".
"Of course the Foreign Office wants to do it, they want to get off to a good start with Obama," The Times quoted an unnamed government department source as saying.
"This is the sort of thing that will require a Cabinet-level decision."
Britain has taken charge of nine detainees who are British nationals and four former residents.
A spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said: "We have made it clear that we think Guantanamo Bay should be closed.
"We recognise the legal, technical and other difficulties and that the US will require assistance from allies and partners to make this happen.
"We have long pressed the US for release of British nationals and residents. To date, we have got all British nationals back, as well as four former residents.
"We continue to press for release of the two remaining former British residents, Binyam Mohamed and Shaker Aamer. Our priority has been to get Binyam Mohamed back to the UK and our offer for receiving Shaker Aamer remains open."
Some 250 inmates remain at Guantanamo.
Alleged "enemy combatants" captured since 2001 by US and allied forces around the world during the so-called War on Terror, some are no longer considered a threat by US authorities and will be resettled.
Some face renewed arrest in their homelands and could face torture or lengthy incarcerations.
The European Union is divided over the issue, with the Netherlands ruling out accepting any newly freed inmates, Portugal and Germany signalling that they might do so, Poland not keen and France calling for a common European position.
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