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Asia-pacific

Palau says it will accept Chinese Uighur detainees

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-10

President Johnson Toribiong (pictured) announced that the tiny Pacific island of Palau it is ready to accept up to 17 Chinese Uighurs who have been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. But the US stressed no final decision had been taken.

AFP - The US government is still considering sending up to 17 Chinese Uighurs from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to the Pacific island nation of Palau, a senior US official said Wednesday.

The government official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the United States "greatly appreciate" Palau's offer to temporarily resettle the Uighurs who remain at the US prison camp despite their being cleared of wrongdoing.

But he added there has been "no final decision, no details arranged. We will continue talks with Palau."

In Koror, Palau President Johnson Toribiong said earlier Wednesday he had "agreed to accommodate the United States of America's request to temporarily resettle in Palau up to 17 ethnic Uighur detainees," according to a statement.

Toribiong said Palau officials would travel to review the situation at the Guantanamo Bay facility, which US President Barack Obama wants to close.

The Palau president said he met last week on the island with US special envoy Dan Fried and his delegation over the resettlement of the detainees.

Toribiong called the decision "a humanitarian gesture."

On Tuesday, a senior US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that neither Palau nor the United States had made a decision concerning the Uighurs.

Four years ago US authorities cleared the Uighurs, but they have been stuck at the US-run prison in Cuba due to fears that Beijing would torture them if they returned to their homeland in northwestern China's Xinjiang region.

In October 2008, a federal judge had ordered the Uighurs released in the United States, but that ruling was overturned on appeal in February.

The Uighur detainees have been in limbo since the Obama administration asked the US Supreme Court to reject a request by the Uighurs to be released on US soil.

The White House contends that the decision whether to allow aliens to enter the United States rests solely with the political branches of government.

Only two out of the Guantanamo Bay facility's roughly 240 detainees have been able to leave the camp since January because of the difficulty in finding third countries to take them in.

Obama has promised to close down the detention center by January 2010, and hopes to convince other countries to take in some of the 50 detainees cleared for release.

Date created : 2009-06-10

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