PM softens stand on Guantanamo inmates

The Netherlands may be prepared to take several prisoners from the US Guantanamo Bay prison to help ensure the camp is closed down, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Tuesday.

Speaking after his first formal meeting with US president Barack Obama in Washington, Balkenende said: ‘if the closure is held up by a couple of prisoners, the Netherlands will see what it can do’.
But no proposals were made and no guarantees were given and the problem was discussed in general terms, news agency ANP said.
One of the first promises made by Obama after his election was to close the prison on Cuba where several hundred people have been held without trial.
The Netherlands was a strong opponent of the camp but until now had always refused to consider taking ex-prisoners. But ‘a solution must be found and the Netherlands will think and work towards that solution,’ the prime minister said.
During their meeting, Obama invited the Netherlands to join the next G20 summit which takes place in Pittsburg in September.
The Netherlands is not a member of the group, made up of the world’s biggest economies, but was on the guest list for previous summits in Washington and, most recently, London.
President Obama also praised Dutch military efforts in Afghanistan, saying Dutch soldiers ‘are some of the most effective’ in the region.
The president said he recognised the Dutch involvement is controversial and hoped the expertise and experience the Netherlands had built up in the region would remain available even when the Netherlands pulls out next year.
Balkenende repeated that the Netherlands will pull back as a leading nation in the southern province of Uruzgan next year, but emphasised that the Netherlands will not turn its back on Afghanistan, ANP reported.

For the Washington Post transcript of the press conference, click here

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