The Washington Times - August 1, 2008, 01:39PM

The Bush administration is having a hard time getting rid of foreign inmates at Guantanamo Bay, which is delaying the prison’s highly anticipated closure.

The administration’s policy is “not to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to countries where we have determined it is more likely than not they will be tortured,” as the State Department said this week.

That policy is now strictly reinforced, following the highly publicized case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was detained at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was tortured. Mr. Arar was not even at Guantanamo. His name got on a terrorist list by what was later determined a mistake, and he was awarded almost $11 million in compensation by the Canadian government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has appointed a special envoy with the rank of ambassador, Clint Williamson, whose full-time job is to negotiate with foreign countries to take in either their own citizens or nationals of other countries who might be tortured should they be sent to their homeland.

Mr. Williamson “has expended a lot of hours and a lot of travel time and a lot of meeting time to try to reach an agreement with countries,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday.

But many of those hours appear to have been futile when it comes to so-called third-country repatriations.

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“We have approached well over 50 countries to seek resettlement options for individuals who fall into this category, but have found very little assistance from the international community,” the department said. “We continue to call on the international community to support our efforts to find appropriate resettlement options.”


— Nicholas Kralev, diplomatic correspondent, The Washington Times