MADRID (AP) – The U.S. government’s point man for closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison was in Spain for talks Wednesday, part of a behind-the-scenes European tour as the Obama administration ramps up efforts to transfer detainees.
Special envoy Daniel Fried was meeting with officials of Spain’s foreign, interior and justice ministries to discuss procedures under which Spain might accept Guantanamo prisoners, the U.S. embassy said in a statement.
Spanish officials had no immediate comment on the meetings, except to say that they were procedural. Fried was not expected to speak publicly.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has said his country is open “in principle” to accepting prisoners, but has stressed that it depends on the legal status of the detainees.
Reprieve, a British non-governmental organization that represents many Guantanamo detainees, has said there are about five men from Tunisia and Algeria held at the U.S. facility who wish to be taken in by Spain.
Fried’s European travels come just two days after the European Union agreed to help “turn the page” on Guantanamo by allowing individual nations to take in some of the 240 or so detainees held there. An aide to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said later that Italy is open to taking at least three detainees from Guantanamo.
Last week, the Obama administration sent four Chinese Uighurs held at Guantanamo to Bermuda. The Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to take in 13 other Uighurs still being held. The men, members of a Muslim minority in China, have long since been cleared by U.S. officials, but have not been returned to China for fear of persecution there.
Fried also plans to visit Portugal and Hungary, a State Department official in Washington said on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the negotiations.
Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo Bay by early next year.