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Blair Expects Resolution 'Soon' in Case of British Terror Suspects Held by US - 2003-10-22


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says action is expected soon on the legal status of nine British terrorist suspects held by the U.S. military in Cuba.

Mr. Blair was asked in parliament if the status of the British suspects imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay can be cleared up before U.S. President George Bush visits Britain next month.

Mr. Blair said he expects prompt action. "It certainly has to be resolved soon," he said. "I can not say exactly when, but there is one of two alternatives. Either there will be sufficient undertakings given about the form of trial that they will have under a military commission, or alternatively they will be returned to this country."

Mr. Blair said the issue has been the subject of ongoing discussions between Attorney General John Ashcroft and his British counterpart, Peter Goldsmith. He said that if the American trial rules are not brought into conformity with British standards, the suspects will be transferred to Britain.

The prime minister also said there is more at stake than a fair trial for the accused.

"It is important to realize that there is a reason why these people have been detained," said the prime minister. "And there is a reason why it is extremely important that we exercise a lot of care about how they are tried, not merely for their sake, because they are entitled to a fair trial, but also for the security of the country."

About 650 terrorist suspects are in custody at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

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