Italy Accepts Three Guantanamo Detainees: Obama
President Barack Obama said Monday Italy had agreed to accept three detainees from the Guantanamo Bay "war on terror" camp in Cuba, after talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"I thanked the prime minister for his support of our policy in closing Guantanamo," Obama said after the two leaders met in the Oval Office.
"This is not just talk, Italy has agreed to accept three specific detainees," Obama said.
There were no immediate details on the identity of the detainees.
Obama and Berlusconi met for talks on next month's Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations in Italy, after the European Union endorsed a deal with Washington on transferring Guantanamo inmates to Europe.
The pact, agreed by EU foreign ministers, stressed that the decision to accept any inmate was one for individual European governments to take.
Last week, Obama accelerated the process of disbursing inmates from the camp, a lightning rod for criticism of the United States overseas, transferring nine detainees to locations across the world from Chad to Iraq, and the Atlantic's Bermuda to the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau.
The Guantanamo camp in remote southeastern Cuba was established in 2002 to house "war on terror" detainees by then president George W. Bush.
Since 2002, more than 540 detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo to at least 30 countries. Yet around 230 inmates still remain there, with Obama vowing to shut the facility by January 2010.
Many of the inmates have already been cleared for release, but US officials are having difficulty finding countries that will take them in, and meeting resistance at home from lawmakers unwilling to allow their housing on U.S. soil.
An earlier version of the EU text, supported in particular by Austria and Germany -- included a line saying "the United States recognizes its responsibility to accept certain former detainees."
"It's a compromise," one European diplomat said last week. "The question of the United States receiving some of the detainees is a very sensitive point right now."
Six European countries besides Italy have said they may be willing to accept former detainees: Belgium, Britain, France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
The EU-US agreement stops short of insisting that Washington help finance resettlement operations, noting only that "the United States will consider contributing to the costs incurred by EU member states."
Obama has vowed to shut down Guantanamo, which has faced strong condemnation ever since Bush set it up after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The tiny Pacific nation of Palau agreed Wednesday to take up to 17 Uighur Guantanamo detainees.
Last Thursday, the United States sent four Uighur men who had been held at the prison camp in Cuba to Bermuda, and also sent two more detainees, a young man with dual Chadian and Saudi nationalities and an Iraqi, back to Chad and Iraq.