Official: Brits Are ‘P*ssed’ About Uighurs To Bermuda

Jun 11, 2009 4:43pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: The U.S. may be happy to see four more detainees leave the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, but close ally Great Britain is not. London is seething because it says it was not adequately consulted about a decision to move four Uighurs — Chinese Muslims — to Bermuda today. "They're pissed," admitted a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The UK provides for Bermuda's defense and foreign affairs, but the State Department today said it dealt directly with the government of Bermuda, who then informed the British Governor General on the island. One U.S. official said the deal to send the Uighurs to Bermuda "came together very quickly" and another senior State Department official said talks began with the island nation late last month. Great Britain was only informed of the plans yesterday, the official said. The U.S. refuses to return the Uighurs to China, where Washington fears they would be persecuted over their group's opposition to the Beijing government. Secretary Clinton spoke on the phone this morning with her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary David Miliband. Clinton's spokesman Ian Kelly said the two discussed the transfer, but declined to reveal the tenor of the conversation. Bermuda's Premier Ewart Brown said he met with the Governor General, who, in Brown's words according to the Associated Press, said he would be "seeking to further assess the ramifications of this move before allowing the government of Bermuda to fully implement this action." The AP quotes a British spokeswoman on background, saying "We've underlined to the Bermuda government that it should have consulted (Britain) on whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue for which the Bermuda government do not have delegated responsibility." "I don't think we bypassed anybody," said the State Department's Ian Kelly. "We're confident that we can work these things through with the government of the UK." Kelly said that the U.S. will provide Bermuda with some financial compensation for the transfer, but declined to say how much it would be. "I think any time that we transfer detainees, we do provide some kind of modest and routine resettlement reimbursement," Kelly said. One senior State Department official said Bermuda would likely be compensated similar to what the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau is expected to receive as part of a deal that could send the remaining 13 Uighurs there, an amount described as "not very substantial."

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