Obama asks Australia to take Guantanamo detainees
Fri May 29, 2009 9:44pm EDT
SYDNEY (Reuters) - The United States has made a new request for Australia to accept a group of detainees from Guantanamo Bay for resettlement, a government spokeswoman said on Saturday.
The request is the first by President Barack Obama's administration, which plans to close down the detention camp in Cuba within the next year.
Media reports have said the request involves a group of Uighurs from China's largely Muslim western province of Xinjiang. Beijing has reportedly been pressing Washington to return them to China, but U.S. officials have expressed concerns about their likely treatment there.
Earlier requests for resettlement in Australia late last year by former president George W. Bush's administration were turned down by Canberra in January on "national security and immigration" grounds.
A spokeswoman for Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith confirmed the new request had been received.
"The Australian government will consider this request on a case by case basis and in accordance with the government's strict immigration and national security requirements," the spokeswoman said.
Those in the group in question have been cleared by U.S. authorities of involvement in terrorism, she said.
(Editing by Jerry Norton)
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