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British Government Raises Concerns Over Detainee Transfer to Bermuda

Chinese Uighur Guantanamo detainees at Guantanamo Bay

Looks like trouble in paradise. 

Though the Obama administration proudly announced Thursday that it had freed and resettled four Guantanamo detainees in Bermuda, the British government is complaining that it was not adequately consulted on the deal. 

And since Bermuda is a British territory, that means the prisoner transfer may not be permanent. 

"The Bermudan government should have consulted us as to whether this falls into their competence. Foreign affairs and security issues would usually fall under U.K. government," one British official told FOX News, adding that they would pursue a security assessment. "It's unlikely any more (detainees) will go to any British overseas territories."

Bermuda Premier Ewart Brown also released a carefully worded statement confirming that the British colonial governor, after meeting with him Thursday morning, had questions, and is "seeking to further assess the ramifications" on behalf of the United Kingdom before signing off on the deal. 

Brown stressed the transfer process is "not complete" until the British government agrees, though he said on behalf of the Bermuda government that "this decision is the right one from a humanitarian perspective." 

The detainees were four of the 17 Chinese Muslims, or ethnic Uighurs, held at the Cuba detention camp. 

The U.S. government has struggled with how to treat them and where to send them -- the government had determined that the Chinese Muslims at Guantanamo weren't enemy combatants and should be released. Officials said they were members of a Muslim group that received weapons training in Afghanistan so it could fight the Chinese government. 

But U.S. officials worried that if they were sent back to China, they could face torture -- leaving the Uighurs in legal limbo. At one point, officials had considered bringing some of the Uighurs to Virginia, but the possibility provoked intense opposition in Congress, and the plan was shelved.

The government finally started to make progress on the matter in recent days, with plans to divvy up the detainees between two island nations better known as vacation getaways than safe havens. 

U.S. officials say senior aides to Obama accompanied four Chinese Muslims and their lawyers on a flight from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to Bermuda.

The officials say the presence of the president's aides during the resettlement process is a sign of the importance the administration puts on closing the facility at Guantanamo.

White House counsel Greg Craig and the special envoy charged with overseeing the closure of the prison at Guantanamo, Daniel Fried, were aboard the plane.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private details of the White House's involvement.

The rest of the Uighur detainees are expected to be sent to the South Pacific island of Palau temporarily, though that deal also is not yet final.

"By helping accomplish the president's objective of closing Guantanamo, the transfer of these detainees will make America safer," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement Thursday. "We are extremely grateful to the government of Bermuda for its assistance in the successful resettlement of these four detainees, and we commend the leadership they have demonstrated on this important issue." 

Abdul Nasser, one of the four detainees who landed in Bermuda early Thursday morning, issued a statement through his lawyers, saying: "Growing up under communism, we always dreamed of living in peace and working in free society like this one. Today you have let freedom ring." 

The Bermuda government said it would admit them as refugees, but they would be permitted to pursue citizenship and would have the right to work, travel and "potentially settle elsewhere." 

At the State Department, spokesman Ian Kelly said the transfer had been arranged through talks between U.S. and Bermudan officials. He said Britain was consulted at some point but would not say when. But he added that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had discussed the matter Thursday with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. 

"We dealt directly with the government of Bermuda to make this happen," he told reporters. Kelly added that U.S. officials were "confident that we can work these things through with the government of (Britain)." 

Despite the Bermuda government's comments about "potentially" resettling the Uighurs elsewhere, an administration official told FOX News the Uighurs "will not be able to travel to the United States unless the U.S. government consents in advance." The official said such restrictions would apply no matter where the detainees are sent. 

This apparently also applies to Palau, which once was a trusteeship administered by the United States until it became independent in 1994. Palauan citizens can travel to the United States without a visa and seek employment or education. 

The Uighurs' lawyers said they will be part of Bermuda's guest worker program. 

It's unclear whether Bermuda was offered anything in exchange for taking the detainees, other than a commitment from the United States to cover the costs surrounding the relocation. 

The administration reportedly offered Palau $200 million in exchange for taking the Uighurs. 

Fewer than 240 detainees remain at Guantanamo. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the United States also may be reaching a deal to relocate many of the nearly 100 Yemenis held at the camp to Saudi Arabia

A spokesman for the Yemen Embassy in Washington said, however, that "our position remains the same" -- meaning Yemen still wants the detainees to return to their homeland, despite U.S. concerns that Yemen might not be able to keep track of them. 

According to the administration, more than 540 detainees have left Guantanamo for other countries since 2002. 

FOX News' Nina Donaghy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.