April 29, 2009 / 4:43 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. says 30 Guantanamo inmates fit for release

BERLIN (Reuters) - The United States has identified about 30 inmates at its military prison in Guantanamo Bay who can be released and will be asking allies to accept detainees within weeks, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

“We expect to be reaching out to specific countries on specific individuals relatively soon,” Holder told reporters on Wednesday in Berlin, the third stop on a European tour that has taken him to London and Prague.

Holder said the requests would be made “within weeks as opposed to months.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, in one of his first acts after taking office in January, ordered that the much-criticized prison be closed within a year and the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects there be ended.

But the new administration must now convince allies in Europe and elsewhere to accept a portion of the remaining 241 detainees that it has determined poses no threat to society and is fit for release.

Some European countries, including France and Portugal, have signaled a readiness to accept former Guantanamo inmates. But Germany has declined to commit to such a move and said it will wait until an official request from the United States is made.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who met Holder on Wednesday, has expressed reservations about taking in Guantanamo inmates. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has spoken in favor of such a move.

Schaeuble is a conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel while Steinmeier is a leading Social Democrat who will challenge Merkel in a September election.

Holder described his talks with German officials as productive and frank. He said he had not made any specific requests for Germany to accept inmates from Guantanamo Bay and had not received any promises from Berlin that it would do so.

He said the United States was working to provide allies with detailed information on individual inmates and would ask individual countries to accept specific detainees when the time came, rather than making a blanket request.

Writing by Noah Barkin; editing by Robert Woodward

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