British FM defends Guantanamo ex-inmates deal

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday defended a compensation deal made with 16 former Guantanamo "war on terror" detainees as essential for national security.

Media reports have said the British government will pay the former detainees millions of pounds to end their civil damages claims for mistreatment.

Hague told reporters at the UN headquarters that "the British government would have found it difficult to defend itself without compromising national security" had court cases gone ahead.

He added that mediation had been started with the Guantanamo detainees so that an official inquiry into the accusations of British complicity in the mistreatment of detainees could be started.

"That inquiry could only take place if those cases were successfully mediated," Hague said.

"It could not go ahead if we were going to face years of court cases going on long into the future which would also have been an enormous distraction for our intelligence agencies."

Hague will have talks in Washington on Wednesday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But he said the accord "will be welcomed in the United States government."

© 2010 AFP

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