CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australia is considering a third request from the United States to resettle Chinese Muslim detainees from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, the country’s foreign minister said Sunday.

Australia twice rejected such appeals last year from former President George W. Bush.

The current request – the first from President Barack Obama’s administration – is to resettle 10 detainees who are Uighurs – Muslims from northwestern China – who have been in Guantanamo Bay for more than six years.

The Uighurs were also the subject of Bush’s two requests. Smith said Bush made the last appeal in December to resettle 17 Uighurs, which was rejected in January on immigration and security criteria.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the Australian government would “consider these on a case-by-case basis” because of the country’s strong relationship with the United States.

“We went through that process previously and they were rejected and we’ll go through exactly the same process on this occasion,” Smith told Ten Network television.

U.S. authorities no longer consider the Uighurs enemy combatants but have not been able to find a country willing to accept them and have opposed their release into the United States.

The U.S. will not send them back to China for fear they will be tortured or executed. Beijing says Uighur insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement and wants those held at Guantanamo to be returned to China.

Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo prison by early 2010, but members of Congress are resisting the prisoners’ transfer to U.S. soil.

Australian opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull said Australia should not accept any former terror suspects that the United States is not prepared to take in.


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