DOHA, Qatar (AP) - Washington expressed no interest Thursday in
an offer by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to take in any of the
240 remaining Guantanamo detainees after they are released from the
U.S. military prison.
Chavez said he would have "no problem" accepting any of the
remaining detainees in Venezuela. In an interview with
Arabic-language Al-Jazeera news network during his trip this week
to this Persian Gulf country, Chavez also urged President Barack
Obama to free the remaining detainees and return the surrounding
U.S. Navy base to Cuba.
But the State Department said in a statement that "the United
States has not received a formal offer through diplomatic channels
to resettle detainees to Venezuela and is not contemplating
resettling detainees to Venezuela."
Chavez has frequently criticized the U.S. military prison, but
the socialist leader also has praised Obama's pledge to close it
within a year. As for the detainees, Chavez said "we would have no
problem in receiving a human being."
Chavez's remarks to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera were later
released by Venezuela's Information Ministry.
As part of Obama's closure order, U.S. officials are deciding
which of the remaining detainees should be shipped away to foreign
countries and which should be tried, either in civilian U.S. courts
or in some other setting.
Prisoners transferred to third countries, mainly in Europe,
would be those determined to pose no threat but who cannot be sent
back to their homelands because of the risk of persecution. Several
European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they
will consider taking such detainees.
Venezuela's relations with the U.S. deteriorated in recent years
as the leftist Chavez crusaded against what he calls the U.S.
"empire." In September, Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador to
Venezuela and recalled his envoy to Washington. And while he has
expressed a desire for improved relations under Obama, he also
called the new American president "ignorant" last month.
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