Yemen may agree to allow a considerable portion of the nearly 100 Yemenis held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay to be transferred to Saudi Arabia, officials involved in the negotiations said. A deal could accelerate President Barack Obama's plan to close the detention facility at the U.S. military base in Cuba by January.
U.S. officials say the Yemenis, who make up nearly half of the roughly 240 detainees remaining at Guantanamo, are among the most difficult to resettle because of their numbers and, in some cases, alleged direct or familial ties to Al Qaeda.
Washington is wary of repatriating the men because it fears Yemen's government won't be able to keep sufficient tabs on them.
The U.S. has been combing the globe for nations willing to take detainees who are considered eligible for release. On Tuesday, the government of the Pacific island nation of Palau expressed its willingness to accept 17 Chinese Uighurs held at Guantanamo.
Senior White House and Central Intelligence Agency officials have been holding regular talks with the Yemeni and Saudi governments about sending a sizable number of the Yemeni detainees to rehabilitation centers in Saudi Arabia. Obama personally discussed the issue with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in a phone conversation last month, according to Yemeni and American officials.
Yemen's government has demanded that all Yemeni detainees be returned to their homeland. But a U.S. official working on the issue said there appeared to be a move toward compromise, adding, "What's crucial is how many the Saudis will take."