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US says in talks to close Guantanamo Bay

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 12 (Reuters) The United States is in discussions about how to send terrorism suspects held in Guantanamo Bay back to their home countries and close the detention camp, a senior US official said today.

Asked if Washington was talking to Britain about how to repatriate prisoners and close the camp, US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Colleen Graffy told BBC television: ''There's continuous discussion about that.'' ''Hopefully, over the years, we will find a way to either release them to their country of origin or they will declare that they no longer want to kill us,'' she said.

About 490 foreign terrorism suspects, many of them suspected Islamist militants, are being held at the naval base in Cuba.

Most have been detained for three years or more and only 10 have been charged with a crime.

Organisations across the world have condemned Washington's use of indefinite detentions without charge and want Guantanamo to close as soon as possible.

The United States argues it has the right to hold people it describes as enemy combatants because it is effectively at war with Al Qaeda.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is under pressure at home to take a harder line with his Iraq war ally US President George W Bush over Guantanamo.

But Blair will not publicly go beyond saying the detention camp is an ''anomaly'' which must at some point end.

The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported that US Attorney General Alberto Gonazales, in London last week, asked British ministers about their attempts to deport terrorism suspects in the UK back to their home countries.

Britain is trying to sign agreements with countries in the Middle East and North Africa to obtain guarantees that anyone deported to those countries would not be tortured.

Reuters CH BS1654

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