April 3, 2009 / 12:50 PM / 9 years ago

Sarkozy says France will take Guantanamo detainee

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - France is ready to take a detainee from Guantanamo Bay when the prison camp is shut down, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

U.S. President Barack Obama and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy make statements at Palais Rohan in Strasbourg April 3, 2009. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance is celebrating its 60th anniversary this week at a summit co-hosted by Germany and France. REUTERS/Jim Young

He said he had long been a critic of Guantanamo but that if Obama needed allies to take detainees from the facility in order to close it, then France would agree.

“We can’t condemn the United States because they have that camp and then wash our hands of it once they close it. That’s not what being allies is about,” Sarkozy said during a joint news conference with Obama.

“Yes, we talked about it, and yes, we reached an agreement,” he said, adding there was one Guantanamo detainee connected to France.

Obama expressed his appreciation to Sarkozy for “being good to his word.”

“I made the decision to close Guantanamo because I do not think it makes America safer,” he said.

“In order to do it carefully and thoughtfully we are going to consult with our allies, and in certain cases we are going to need help with detainees that may still pose a risk but we may not be able to repatriate to their countries of origin.”

European governments, who for years called for the camp to be closed and want to mend ties with the United States that were damaged under former President George W. Bush, face pressure to help find a home for some its about 245 remaining detainees.

However, governments have been split on how far they are prepared to go and whether they would accept Guantanamo inmates, particularly those with no link to their own countries.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon, James Mackenzie and Crispian Balmer; editing by Timothy Heritage

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