Britain says it has asked the United States to release five British residents from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Britain's Foreign Office said Tuesday, that Foreign Secretary David Miliband has written to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to formally request the release.

The men are not British nationals, but they had lived in Britain before they were detained.

The move signals a change of policy for Britain, which has previously refused to intervene in the cases of noncitizens held at Guantanamo. The British Foreign Office said it decided to request the return of the British residents because the United States is trying to reduce the number of prisoners held at the detention facility.

The United States opened the prison after the attacks of September 11, 2001, to hold terrorism suspects.

The Bush administration has come under fire from international civil and human rights groups for holding detainees indefinitely without charge, and for not allowing them to have a defense lawyer present or examine much of the evidence against them.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.