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Rice Rejects UN Criticism of Guantanamo Detention Center

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is rejecting criticism from the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which last week called for Washington to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration would like to completely shut down the Guantanamo detention facility, as called for by the U.N. report. But, speaking on the NBC television program Meet the Press, she said the U.S. government does not want to act too hastily, and let people go who may be terrorists.

"We do not want to be the world's jailers," said Condoleezza Rice. "But I would ask people to answer the following question, then what do we do with the hundreds of dangerous people there, who are caught on the battlefield, who are known to have connections, who regularly say that if they are released, they are going to go back to killing Americans? Do you really want those people on the streets?"

At the same time, Rice said, U.S. authorities have released hundreds of people who had been detained at Guantanamo.

"We have released them to custody of their own governments, when we can assure that they will not be mistreated, and when we can assure that they will be properly monitored and looked after, so that they cannot commit crimes again," she said.

The U.S. government is currently holding about 460 detainees at Guantanamo, on suspicion of having links to the al-Qaida terrorist network. Of those, more than 100 have been approved for release, and are waiting for their home countries, or other countries, to agree to accept them.

The most recent transfer includes 15 detainees who were sent back to their home country, Saudi Arabia. And, earlier this month, the State Department announced that it had sent five Muslim Uighurs to Albania, rather than to their home country, China, out of fear they could be persecuted.

Meanwhile, speaking specifically about the U.N. report, Rice repeated U.S. criticism that the committee members did not go in person to see the facility.

"Guantanamo is a necessity because of the nature of the war on terror, but lots of changes have been made at Guantanamo," noted Condoleezza Rice. "I only wish the rapporteurs had gone to Guantanamo and actually looked at what was going on there."

The U.N. report was based on interviews with former prisoners and their lawyers. The U.N. investigators did not accept Washington's invitation to visit Guantanamo, because they would have been denied direct access to prisoners.

Besides calling for the immediate closure of the Guantanamo facilty, the U.N. Committee Against Torture criticized the indefinite detention of prisoners there. The group also urged the United States to hold accountable all senior military and civilian officials who authorized or acquiesced to acts of torture committed by their subordinates.

The U.N report asks Washington to report on U.S. compliance efforts within one year.