(Reuters) - President George W. Bush, seeking to reassure Europeans over the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, said on Wednesday that he wanted eventually to shut the prison and send inmates back to their home countries.
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said Europeans were calling for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, but they had also received a commitment "no torture, no extraordinary or extraterritorial positions to deal with the terrorists."
U.S. forces captured hundreds of foreigners abroad following the September 11, 2001 attacks on suspicion of belonging to al Qaeda or the Taliban, but almost all have been held without charges -- some of them for more than four years, reports Trend.
"I'd like to end Guantanamo. I'd like it to be over with," Bush said at a news conference after talks with European Union leaders. "One of the things we will do is we'll send people back to their home countries." He gave no time frame.
Bush said some of the roughly 400 prisoners left at Guantanamo, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, would have to be tried in U.S. courts.
"They're cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they're let out on the street," he said.
Bush said he was awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court before deciding a proper venue to try Guantanamo prisoners.
The Supreme Court is due to rule by June 30 on the legitimacy of the military courts that Bush created to try suspected terrorists after the September 11 attacks.
The U.S. military indefinitely suspended Guantanamo war crimes tribunals after three prisoners were found hanged in their cells in apparent suicides on June 10. Pretrial hearings scheduled last week and this week were put off.
The deaths prompted a new round of calls from U.S. allies, critics and rights activists to shut down Guantanamo.
Schuessel, standing alongside Bush, said there would only be victory against terrorism "if we don't undermine our common values" of democracy, rule of law and individual rights.
"We are calling for the closure of Guantanamo. But our discussion today went far beyond the closing of Guantanamo, because we have ... a legal problem, we have grey areas. And there should be no legal void," he said.
Schuessel said he welcomed Bush's statement that he wanted to shut Guantanamo. "And we got clear, clear signals and a commitment from the American side -- no torture, no extraordinary or extraterritorial positions to deal with the terrorists," he said.