SLUG: 2-285724 Rumsfeld/Cuba (L)
DATELINE= GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
INTRO: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Taleban and al-Qaida detainees held at the U-S Navy base in Cuba are not prisoners of war and will not be regarded as P-O-W's in the future. Mr. Rumsfeld made the statement Sunday as he visited the Camp X-Ray detention facility at Guantanamo Bay where the detainees are being held. V-O-A Pentagon correspondent Alex Belida reports.
TEXT: Mr. Rumsfeld says the 158 Taleban and al-Qaida detainees held at camp X-Ray are, in his words, "the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth."
He tells reporters accompanying him to Guantanamo Bay that they are not prisoners of war, and the Bush administration will not change its view on the issue.
His comment comes ahead of a planned National Security Council meeting Monday, where officials will discuss a controversial legal memorandum from the State Department asking that the Geneva convention dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war apply to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The detainees are now considered unlawful combatants and not P-O-W's. That has led to some criticism from human rights groups and foreign politicians, who have also voiced concern over the treatment of the detainees.
Still, Mr. Rumsfeld says the detainees are being treated humanely, in accordance with the Geneva conventions.
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He tells reporters he has absolutely full confidence in the way the detainees are being handled.
Mr. Rumsfeld says his trip to Guantanamo Bay had nothing to do with the issue of their treatment. Instead, he said, the purpose was to meet military officials in charge of guarding the detainees to discuss the more permanent jail facilities now being built to replace the temporary open air cells where they are currently being held.
Mr. Rumsfeld has ordered the suspension of further detainee transfers from Afghanistan to Cuba, until additional facilities are available.
Military officials at Camp X-Ray say they already have more cells ready and are ready to receive more prisoners.
Mr. Rumsfeld's visit on a hot sunny Sunday gave him a first-hand look at the detention facilities. He was accompanied by General Richard Myers, chairmen of the joint chief of staff, and four U-S senators. (Signed)
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