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Australia mulls request to take Guantanamo inmates

world Updated: Jan 23, 2010 14:59 IST

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Australia was considering a fresh request from the United States to resettle a group of inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, officials said on Saturday.

"Australia has received another request from the United States and the matter is being considered," a foreign affairs spokeswoman told AFP.

Canberra has already rebuffed at least three such requests two from the administration of former US president George W Bush and a third received last May from President Barack Obama.

The spokeswoman said the latest request came in "late 2009" but she could not comment on specifics or confirm how many such advances the US had made.

"The Australian government will consider requests on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the government's strict immigration and national security requirements," she said.

According to local press the May request involved six men from China's Turkic-speaking Uighur minority, who were resettled in the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau after Australia refused to take them.

Palau is a former US-administered territory which relies heavily on US aid, and its president, Johnson Toribiong, in November said Beijing may have pressured Australia not to take the six.

The United States refused to send the men back to China which expressed anger over their release, describing them as terrorist suspects for fear they would be persecuted.

They were held for close to eight years in the Cuban island prison and cleared of all charges four years ago.

Switzerland this month refused to offer asylum to two Uighur inmates of Guantanamo, following diplomatic pressure from Beijing, who warned it could affect relations.

The Obama administration is trying to close the controversial centre, partly by seeking third countries prepared to take in some of the detainees. Obama's self-imposed January 22 closure deadline passed unmet on Friday.