BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary will accept a prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military detention center, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close, Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said Wednesday.
Bajnai said Hungary would choose from a short list of Guantanamo prisoners in the coming days and that he would participate in an 18-month integration program.
"According to our current expectations ... the chosen candidate will be a Palestinian man who will be able to start a new life in Hungary," Bajnai told reporters.
"I ask my fellow citizens to consider the difficult circumstances in which the detainee spent his latest years and help his future integration."
Bajnai said he had called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to inform her of Hungary's decision.
Daniel Fried, the U.S. government's envoy in charge of closing the Guantanamo prison, thanked Hungary and said all detainees who had been included as candidates for resettlement have been cleared of "any residual security questions which may remain."
"We are very grateful for Hungary's decision," Fried told reporters, adding that so far France, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Belgium were among other European countries that had either accepted detainees or announced their willingness to do so.
Within the European Union, which long argued for the prison's closure, Portugal, France and Ireland have committed to taking specific prisoners.
"Closing the Guantanamo detention camp in a way that advances the security of the United States and of our allies as well as advances our values is one of President Obama's great priorities," Fried said.
Before the start of the war in Iraq, Hungary hosted a U.S. military training camp for Iraqi exiles and sent 300 noncombat troops to Iraq who carried out mainly transportation duties. The troops were withdrawn at the end of 2006.