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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 04:18 GMT 05:18 UK
US call over Guantanamo detainees
By Jane Little
BBC News, Washington

Guantanamo Bay detention camp
Several hundred detainees are being held at Guantanamo Bay
The US State Department's chief legal adviser has challenged foreign governments to stop calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay camp.

In an interview with the BBC, John Bellinger said they should instead start helping to resettle some of the more than 400 prisoners held there.

He said no-one was comfortable with the situation and the US had been trying to repatriate prisoners for a long time.

He also said some detainees could face military trials next year.

'Practical ways'

President Bush may have celebrated the signing of a new law this week allowing the US to push ahead with military trials at Guantanamo, but foreign governments, including allies, continue to be a thorn in his side.

If we really want to reduce the numbers to send people back, progress cannot be made by just simply saying Guantanamo should be closed
John Bellinger

Just last week, Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett issued the latest demand to close the camp, calling it unacceptable and saying it fuels Islamic radicalism.

But John Bellinger said that it was not enough to criticise when many countries were refusing to take back detainees.

"No one's comfortable with the situation in Guantanamo," he said.

"But if we really want to reduce the numbers to send people back, progress cannot be made by just simply saying Guantanamo should be closed."

"We have to have practical suggestions, practical ways to move forward."

While all nine British nationals held in Guantanamo have returned home, the UK government has been reluctant to take former British residents still held there.

British officials say there are nine; US officials count 10.

Other countries have blamed the US for delays in releasing inmates found not to be a threat.

There are more than 400 men held at Guantanamo from some 40 countries.

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John Bellinger said he expects that military trials will begin sometime next year. It is expected that between 60 and 80 prisoners will face trial.

Critics argue that the new Military Commissions Act denies the prisoners fair trials and that the interrogation methods permitted remain opaque.




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Bellinger calls for worldwide help on Guantanamo



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