Washington: US President Barack Obama`s renewed push to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorism suspects has given a glimmer of hope to foreign governments that he will fulfil that promise and triggered diplomatic manoeuvring from US allies eager to bring home long-held detainees.
Kuwait has hired lobbyists to help bring its two remaining prisoners home. British Prime Minister David Cameron personally pressed Obama at the Group of Eight summit last month to release the United Kingdom`s final detainee. And the fate of Afghans being held at the US military prison in Cuba has been at the forefront of peace talks between the US, Taliban and Afghanistan.
The indefinite captivity has created tension with some important US allies, particularly in the Arab world, the native home of many of the 166 remaining detainees. Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen are among those countries that have pressed the US to turn over their nationals.
The Obama administration is in the midst of determining which detainees present the lowest risk for terrorist activity if released considering both their personal histories and security in the countries to which they will be returned.
More than 100 of the detainees have participated in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite confinement, with several dozen having been force fed through a nasal tube to keep them from starving, although the military reported on Friday that most have resumed eating.
David Cynamon, an American lawyer based in the Middle East who is working with Kuwait on getting their detainees back, said in recent months they are finally having meaningful negotiations after years of "radio silence".
"You would think with a close ally like Kuwait they would at least get a hearing, but they kept getting the brush off," said Cynamon.
Administration officials say they are working aggressively to certify detainees for release under Obama`s directive in May to transfer as many detainees as possible to other countries. The president, in announcing new steps to get the detainees out, said diplomatic concerns are chief among the reasons to close the facility.
"Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law," Obama said during a speech at National Defence University. "Our allies won`t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at Gitmo."