Thu, Feb 26, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Spain ready to accept Guantanamo prisoners

HELP After years of chilly relations between Madrid and Washington, the two countries are once again exploring opportunities for cooperation on international problems

AGENCIES , MADRID AND WASHINGTON

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Tuesday his country was prepared to accept prisoners from US detention camp Guantanamo Bay.

He made his comments after his first meeting with his US counterpart. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Moratinos said he had promised Clinton that Spain would make contact immediately to study possible transfers on a case by case basis.

“She asked me for help with the solution of this unacceptable tragedy, which is the prisoners at Guantanamo,” Moratinos told Spanish media.

“I told her that Spain is in principle open to cooperating in receiving some prisoners, as long as the legal conditions are acceptable,” he said.

The US holds about 250 prisoners at Guantanamo and has released or transferred to other governments about 520 other men and teenagers previously held there.

Last month, US President Barack Obama ordered Guantanamo’s closure and set a one-year deadline for shutting the camp, set up to hold foreigners captured after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

After years of chilly relations, Moratinos’ first meeting with Clinton opened the way for a new phase in Spain’s diplomatic relations with Obama, he told reporters.

During their 20-minute meeting at the State Department, Clinton asked for “help in solving this drama, this unacceptable tragedy of the prisoners at Guantanamo,” Moratinos said.

Moratinos said that in any event “a new stage in relations between the United States and Spain is opening that is more intense, more productive.”

The Obama administration made its first top level contact with Spain on Friday, when King Juan Carlos I and Moratinos met US National Security Adviser James Jones in Miami.

Obama “wants to make Spain an active partner in all the US administration’s commitments and actions on the international stage,” Moratinos said.

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