- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2007

LONDON (AP) — Britain called today for the Bush administration to release five British residents held at Guantanamo Bay — a policy reversal that suggests new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pursuing a tougher line with the United States than his predecessor.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking that the five men be freed, the Foreign Office said.

The new call contrasts with former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s refusal for years to intervene in most Guantanamo cases. His government pressed for the release of nine British citizens and one resident who had provided help to British intelligence services. However, it refused to intervene in the plight of other British residents, saying as recently as March that it could not help people who were not citizens.

The men in Mr. Miliband’s request — Saudi citizen Shaker Aamer, Jordanian Jamil el-Banna, Libyan-born Omar Deghayes, Ethiopian national Binyam Mohamed and Algerian Abdennour Sameur — all had been granted refugee status, indefinite leave or exceptional leave to remain in Britain before they were detained, the Foreign Office said.

“Discussions with the U.S. government about the release and return of these five men may take some time,” it said.

Though many of his Cabinet ministers called directly for Guantanamo to be shut, Mr. Blair said the prison camp was an “anomaly” and did not press President Bush to close it.

U.S. steps to reduce the numbers of detainees at the military prison in Cuba prompted Mr. Miliband and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to review the British government’s approach, the Foreign Office said.

Five Britons were freed in March 2004 and four in January 2005, the Foreign Office said.

Bisher al-Rawi, a 37-year-old Iraqi national and British resident, was released from the camp in April after five years in detention. British officials took up his case only after it was disclosed he had assisted MI5, Britain’s domestic spy agency.