- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

LUXEMBOURG (AP) - Austria said Monday it would not take detainees from the Guantanamo Bay center despite a request by President Barack Obama for help from European nations during his first major international trip as leader.

Austria was worried about the security threat to the European Union posed by the detainees, Interior Minister Maria Fekter told a meeting of her European counterparts.

Obama repeated his request Sunday for European countries to take some of the 60 inmates who will have to go to another country as they could face abuse, imprisonment or death if returned to their homelands. He has ordered the center to close within a year of his taking office.

Several EU countries, including the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency, have already declined to take inmates.

“If the detainees are no longer dangerous, why don’t they stay in the U.S.,” Fekter told the meeting. “For Austria, I cannot accept Guantanamo inmates.”

Taking inmates poses a security headache for the EU because 23 of its members share a common passport-free zone. If one of its members takes in a prisoner with a criminal record, all others in the zone will have to be alerted.

Jacques Barrot, the EU’s justice and interior affairs commissioner told reporters that U.S. officials told him they intend to take in a share of the 60 prisoners.

“We European countries are now dealing with an American government which is showing good will and this good will is expressed now in the fact that they are willing to resettle some ex-detainees on their own territory,” Barrot said.

Barrot said U.S. justice officials aimed to finalize new countries for the detainees by the end of June. He said the EU was receiving “detailed answers” about why the inmates are being detained and the potential security risk they could pose.

Any final decision on taking in detainees remains one for each of the EU nations.

France said Friday that it would be willing to take one of the suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo, while Spain and Portugal have said they too could accept detainees.

About 250 detainees are still held, some without charge, at the Guantanamo Bay center, which was set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.


Associated Press Writer Barbara Schaeder contributed to this report.

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