U.S. President Barack Obama's administration wants to close the
center in Cuba used to imprison people captured after the Sept. 11,
2001 attacks on the United States and has been talking to several
countries about relocating inmates.
Guantanamo, criticized by human rights groups, has prisoners that
have been held for a decade or longer without being charged or given
a trial. Opened by President George W. Bush in 2002 to hold suspects
rounded up overseas, Guantanamo became a symbol of the excesses of
his "war on terror."
Hagel said he was taking his time in reaching a decision about six
detainees Obama had discussed with Uruguayan President Jose Mujica,
as well as other detainees, in order to be sure that releasing them
was the responsible thing to do.
"Iíll be making some decisions on those specific individuals here
fairly soon," he told reporters en route to Alaska before embarking
on a tour of Asia and Europe.
Hagel said the U.S. Congress had assigned him the responsibility of
notifying it of a decision to release detainees.
"My name goes on that document. Thatís a big responsibility," he
"I have a system that I have developed, put in place, to look at
every element, first of all complying with the law, risks,
mitigation of risk. Does it hit the thresholds of the legalities
required?" he said.
"Can I ensure compliance with all those requirements? There is a
risk in everything ... I suspect I will never get a 100-percent
Uruguay said in March that at Washington's request it would take
some inmates from Guantanamo Bay. Mujica said then that Uruguay had
asked the United States to free Cuban prisoners as a gesture in
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He was most likely referring to three Cuban intelligence agents in
jail in the United States. The three, plus two others who have since
been released, were convicted in 2001 of spying and are considered
heroes in Cuba.
Mujica said in March the arrival of the Guantanamo detainees was far
from finalized but that they would be free men in Uruguay.
Uruguayan media reported at the time that Uruguay had accepted a
U.S. proposal to take five detainees for two years. It said they
were likely to be four Syrians and a Pakistani.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo soon after he took office in
2008, but that plan has been thwarted by difficulties in moving the
detainees either to the U.S. or to their home countries.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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