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'Small, meek' Belgium boosted in Guantanamo charm offensive

By Andrew Carey, CNN
The U.S. government is struggling to find countries willing to re-settle Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The U.S. government is struggling to find countries willing to re-settle Guantanamo Bay detainees.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diplomatic cables show unique U.S. approach to Belgium
  • U.S. wants Belgium to take more Guantanamo detainees
  • Cable suggests "Belgium stepping forward from the chorus line and up to the footlights on Guantanamo"

London, England (CNN) -- The Obama administration's attempts to find countries prepared to re-settle Guantanamo Bay detainees crop up in many of the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.

And the approach taken by U.S. officials working overseas is custom-tailored for each country.

Take efforts to persuade Belgium, for instance. Politically crippled by an apparently intractable north-south divide, it is a country struggling profoundly with its sense of identity. And that offered diplomats an apparent opening:

"For the past few months, Embassy Brussels has been working to set the stage for a change in Belgium's self-concept as a small, meek country living in the shadow of France and Germany, to a country that can show leadership in Europe in spite of stretched financial and material resources."

The cable, dispatched on November 24th, 2009, goes on:

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"We have ... begun to suggest the possibility of Belgium stepping forward from the chorus line and up to the footlights on Guantanamo. Helping solve the USG's (United States Government's) -- and Europe's -- problem with Guantanamo is a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe."

The cable notes that Belgium had so far re-settled one former inmate but suggests this could be the first of many: "The time is right to ask Belgium to take more than a handful of detainees."

The cable is addressed to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who was due in Belgium less than two weeks later. Advice is offered on how she might steer the conversation with her hosts.

"There are signs that Belgium's reticence (in world affairs) is beginning to chafe its leadership. Complaints about Belgium's exclusion from G-20 membership, and opposition to perceived influence of a 'directoire' of large countries in the EU are examples. It is a matter of convincing Belgium that not only does it have self-interest in a more assertive role, but it also has a uniquely trusted character within Europe that permits it to be effective."

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