Condoleezza Rice defends Guantanamo

REYKJAVIK Fri May 30, 2008 5:48pm BST

A guard tower of Camp Delta is seen at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this file picture. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/Files

A guard tower of Camp Delta is seen at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in this file picture.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Skipper/Files

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REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied on Friday that prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre were abused.

Rice, speaking at a briefing during a short visit to Iceland, defended the Bush administration after she was asked about a resolution adopted by Iceland's parliament criticising the U.S. government over Guantanamo.

Icelandic Foreign Minister Ingibjorg Gisladottir said she had spoken to Rice about Guantanamo.

"I strongly object to the notion that there are human rights violations at Guantanamo," Rice said.

"Guantanamo is a place that the president himself has said he would like to close. There is the problem of what you do with the dangerous people who are there."

The resolution, which had been adopted unanimously by Icelandic legislators including the foreign minister and prime minister, condemned the "inhumane" treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and urged the U.S. government to close the camp.

Rice stopped in Iceland on the way back after a trip to Sweden for a conference on rebuilding Iraq.

She said the United States, which closed a military base on Iceland in 2006 and withdrew its F-15 fighters, had a clear commitment to continue cooperating on defence with its NATO ally.

"The defence cooperation agreement envisions that once American forces had left, that there would be air policing," Rice said. "In fact NATO countries are taking this responsibility."

Rice added, "We agreed today that one of the things we will do is several months out, as we have more experience with this agreement, that we will look at how its terms are being met and what more needs to be done."

Rice expressed concern about a resurgence of Russian activities in the high north, but she did not elaborate. A senior U.S. official said Russians have been intruding into Iceland's air space since the United States withdrew its F-15s.

Rice also said she looked forward to a report from her deputy, John Negroponte, who took part in a five-nation meeting on territorial claims in the Arctic this week at which the countries agreed to let the U.N. rule on conflicting claims.

"The U.S. is concerned about the high north," she said. "This shouldn't be an area of conflict. It can be an area of cooperation, in the high north and the Arctic."

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

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