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Cables reveal difficulty of relocating some Guantanamo detainees

From Xuan Thai, CNN White House Producer
  • China obstructed efforts to move 17 Chinese Muslim Uyghurs
  • Germany considered taking seven but was warned "a heavy burden" could follow
  • The 17 ended up in Palau, Bermuda, Albania, and Switzerland

Washington (CNN) -- The relocation of 17 Chinese Muslim Uyghurs detained at Guantanamo Bay was a thorny issue for the United States, according to cables released by the website WikiLeaks.

Attempts to find new homes for the 17 detainees was met with resistance because of fear of retribution from China.

At one point, Germany considered accepting seven of the Uyghurs. But the government was "subsequently warned by China of 'a heavy burden on bilateral relations'" between Germany and China if the Germans accepted the detainees.

According to one cable, German Chancellery Security and Foreign Policy Advisor Christoph Heusgen said relocation of the Uyghurs "would be 'too difficult,' but that Germany could probably accept '2-3 others' from Guantanamo."

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The document also summarized Heusgen as saying, "If Germany were to take any [Uyghurs], it would be best to do so in combination with other European countries to prevent China from focusing its opposition on any one country."

In another cable, this one from the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the Chinese ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Zhang Yannian, called America's refusal to relocate the detainees to China a "slap in the face."

The missive quotes Zhang as saying, "Releasing 17 from Guantanamo is an unfriendly act toward us."

"He then went on at length about what a 'slap in the face' it was to China that the [Uyghur] detainees were not going to be returned to their homeland but instead shipped to Germany, where reportedly they had already been granted refugee status," the cable says.

It goes on to say that Zhang "did imply that the Guantanamo situation had made China look for ways to hit back at the U.S."

The 17 Uyghurs were eventually relocated to Palau, Bermuda, Albania, and Switzerland.

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