June 20, 2009 / 9:58 PM / 10 years ago

Portugal to take two or three Guantanamo prisoners

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal will accept “two or three” prisoners for resettlement from the U.S. detention camp of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, state news agency Lusa quoted Foreign Minister Luis Amado as saying Saturday.

In December, Portugal became the first country to press publicly for a coordinated European Union resettlement plan for Guantanamo prisoners. Monday, the EU announced European nations are ready to help Washington and take detainees on a case-by-case basis.

Amado met Daniel Fried, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European affairs in charge of resettling negotiations, on Friday. The Portuguese minister said the status of the detainees to be resettled in the Iberian country would be defined by the Interior Ministry probably next week.

“We’ll receive two or three prisoners, but we now have to, internally, make the necessary procedures to go ahead with receiving them,” Lusa quoted Amado as saying.

Spain and Italy have already offered to take a few detainees each.

The Guantanamo Bay prison camp, opened under former U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, attracted international criticism for holding prisoners indefinitely, many without charge.

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the Guantanamo facility closed by January of next year and the inmates either face trial or be released.

Fried’s job is to find host countries for more than 200 detainees Washington chose not to prosecute. The U.S. government is facing opposition to releasing them in the United States.

Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Jon Hemming

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