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Australia could refuse detainees

Guantanamo detainees
Closing Guantanamo will be a complicated process

Australia will probably reject a US request to take in prisoners from the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, the acting prime minister has said.

Julia Gillard said Washington made the request in early December, after US President-elect Barack Obama announced he planned to close the camp.

Ms Gillard said Australia was still considering its response, but was unlikely to accept.

About 255 people are still being held at Guantanamo Bay.

More than 60 of these men have been cleared for release, but cannot be repatriated for fear they will be persecuted when they get back home.

UK pressure

The US State Department has asked about 100 countries for help clearing Guantanamo Bay over a two-year period, The Australian newspaper reported.

Australia had rejected a similar request to resettle "a small group of detainees" in early 2008, Ms Gillard said, and would probably do so again.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

She added that, to be considered at all, the detainees "would have to meet Australia's strict legal requirement and go through normal rigorous assessment processes".

Ms Gillard is filling in for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd while he is on holiday.

The UK and Portugal are pressing other European countries to take in prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

While Britain has not directly offered asylum, it said it accepted the US would need help closing the facility.

But the Foreign Office said it was "not pushing for a deal" to allow more Guantanamo inmates into the UK.

Allies

Kevin Rudd's centre-left Labor Party, which came to power in 2007, has often criticised the conditions and treatment of inmates in the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

While in opposition, Mr Rudd's party demanded the repatriation of two Australians being held there.

One of them, Mamdouh Habib, was released from the camp without charge in 2005.

The other, David Hicks, was the first detainee held at Guantanamo Bay to be convicted of supporting terrorism.

He was allowed to return home in May 2007 after pleading guilty.

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