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Britain Says Guantanamo Closure is Bush's Decision


Britain says it is up to the United States to decide whether to continue holding suspected terrorists at a camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has addressed the issue in comments to British radio.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has attempted to play down apparent divisions in the British government about the Guantanamo Bay camp in the aftermath of a U.N. report calling for the facility to be closed and the inmates to be released or put on trial.

Last week, Cabinet Minister Peter Hain said Guantanamo should be closed, and he said he believed Prime Minister Tony Blair held the same view.

The next day, Mr. Blair called Guantanamo "an anomaly" that needs to be dealt with sooner or later.

Now Straw says the camp's closure is a matter for the administration of President Bush to decide, and Britain will not second-guess the United States.

"The U.S. has picked up a lot of people who were very, very dangerous people," he said. "They have released a large number. They have released all the British citizens who were detained there. The question now is, what happens to those who are left and it is a very big issue for the U.S. administration."

Straw says the decision is complicated by concerns that Guantanamo inmates, if released, could again take up arms against the United States and its allies, including Britain.

"I am quite clear that the U.S. administration wants this issue resolved," he said. "I am absolutely certain about that. But they would hardly be serving not only their own citizens, but everybody else in the world, if they were suddenly to release people who could well go back into insurgency. The United States has no intention of maintaining a gulag in Guantanamo Bay and they want to see the situation resolved and they would like it other than it is."

Straw says critics of the Guantanamo camp must remember the context of its creation, following the 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.

In his words, "some very bad terrorists were picked up," creating circumstances never anticipated by previous interpretations of international law.

Straw also says living conditions at the Guantanamo camp have been improved over time, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to the approximately 500 inmates held there.