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Homeland Security

Australia: No to Guantanamo Detainees

By VOA News
03 January 2009

The Australian government has formally rejected the United States' request to resettle former detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Australian Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters Saturday the request was denied because it had not met the country's stringent national security and immigration criteria.

Gillard is filling in for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd while he is on vacation. On Friday, she said the administration of U.S. President George Bush had requested Australia's help with the detainees last month. She said Australia rejected a similar request early last year.

Mr. Bush's successor, President-elect Barack Obama, has pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay prison after taking office in January.

Doing that will require finding homes for prisoners who qualify for release but can not return to their own countries because of the threat of persecution.

About 250 people are imprisoned at the detention center, located on a U.S. naval base on the eastern tip of Cuba.

The U.S. set up the prison to hold terrorist suspects following the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

Two Australian citizens - David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib - who were held at the facility are now living in Australia. The Australian political opposition called on its government Friday not to resettle any more former detainees.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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