BERLIN (Reuters) - The United States has not provided Germany with enough information on inmates at Guantanamo Bay for Berlin to take a decision on whether to accept any of them, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a German newspaper.
In an interview to be published in the Sunday edition of top-selling daily Bild, Schaeuble also laid out a strict set of criteria he would use when assessing whether to take on detainees from the U.S. military prison for terrorism suspects.
U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to close the detention center by early 2010 and is lobbying allies in Europe and elsewhere to accept prisoners who are not believed to pose a security threat but cannot return to their home countries.
Bild reported that Washington had provided Berlin with a list of 9 Chinese Muslims, members of the Uighur ethnic group, that it hoped Germany would take on.
“The information that we’ve received so far from Washington is insufficient for us to take a decision on whether to accept any one of the cases,” Schaeuble told Bild.
Asked to list his criteria for accepting inmates, Schaueble said, “First, are we sure that these people do not pose a threat because this a worry of many citizens here. Second, why can’t the United States take them on? And third, do they have a link to Germany?”
A government spokesman said this week that the process of examining individual cases had just begun and that “intense talks” would be held on the matter over the coming weeks.
Some European countries have signaled a readiness to accept former Guantanamo inmates, including France which said on Wednesday it would take in an Algerian detainee.
But in Germany, political considerations have clouded the issue ahead of a federal election in September and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “grand coalition” is split.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat (SPD) who will challenge Merkel in the vote, has said Germany should accept some prisoners as a token of solidarity given that Berlin had long pressed the United States to close the prison.
But Schaeuble, a conservative ally of Merkel, has expressed reservations about such a move.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on a visit to Berlin last month that about 30 of the 241 inmates at the prison on Cuba were believed to be fit for release.
Holder said earlier this year that it was possible that 17 Chinese Muslims, held at Guantanamo for years, could be freed in the United States. But some members of Congress have vowed to ensure no prisoners are released within the United States.
Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Louise Ireland