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Monday, January 26, 2009

Yemen has idea for its 94 Guantanamo detainees: 'Integrate themselves back into society'

CAIRO — Yemen expects its nationals to be released by April from a U.S. Navy prison in Cuba.   

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said 94 Yemeni detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo would be released in early 2009, most likely by April, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Now, within 60-90 days, 94 Yemeni detainees will be here among us," Saleh said.

In a briefing to a national security conference on Jan. 24, Saleh said the United States had sought to send the released Yemenis to Saudi Arabia. The plan by the outgoing administration of then-President George Bush called for the Yemenis to undergo a Saudi rehabilitation program.

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"We refused the offer to release the Yemenis to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation," Saleh recalled. "And we told them we would establish our own center for rehabilitating them and helping them get rid of extremism and violence."

About 100 of the 245 remaining detainees at Guantanamo were identified as Yemenis. Officials said Sanaa and Washington — amid disagreement over Yemen's policy toward Al Qaida — were discussing the terms of the release of the detainees.

"We are going to find a way to relocate them at some point," U.S. ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche said.

President Barack Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo by 2010 and release all of its suspected Al Qaida operatives. At the same time, officials have acknowledged that more than 60 of those already released — including the new chief of the Yemeni network — have returned to Al Qaida.

"Certainly we would like to bring them back to Yemen and have them integrate themselves back into society with their families and make a future for themselves here," Seche said.

Yemen has pledged to establish a U.S.-financed center to rehabilitate those released from Guantanamo. Officials said the Saleh regime has briefed Washington on its plans to help reintegrate the detainees.

"They would undergo edification programs based on moderation to shun extremism and terrorism," the Yemeni Defense Ministry newspaper, "September 26," said.

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