Germany to accept two Guantanamo detainees: minister

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Germany will take in two Guantanamo detainees, a minister said Wednesday, in a modest victory for US President Barack Obama in his bid to win allies' help to close the prison.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration and state governments, whose cooperation was needed in settling the men from the US prison in Cuba, had resolved lingering security concerns. The decision follows months of deliberation.

US authorities cleared the Palestinian and Syrian detainees for release after nine years in detention without charge and de Maiziere said he was confident they posed no threat.

The minister said Berlin sought to back Obama in his drive to shut Guantanamo as soon as possible.

"The German government repeatedly criticised the establishment of this detention camp and that is why we are interested in helping to close it," he told a news conference.

One detainee would be sent to the northern port city of Hamburg and the other to the southwestern region Rhineland-Palatinate.

US President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the disputed US military prison in southeastern Cuba by January after it became a symbol for excesses in the "war on terror" under former president George W. Bush.

Washington has asked allies to help resettle prisoners who have been cleared of all charges but cannot return home, often over fears they may be tortured. But many countries' reluctance has been a key obstacle in closing the site.

According to US government figures from early May, 181 detainees remain there including dozens already cleared for release. Most have been held without charge or trial.

The United States most recently asked Germany to take in three detainees but de Maiziere said he had rejected the third candidate without citing details.

Germany last year refused a request to take in two other ex-detainees, arguing that Washington had failed to provide sufficient background information on them.

It had previously rejected a separate US call to accept Chinese Uighur detainees.

© 2010 AFP

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