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U.S. nearing decision on Gitmo detainees

LONDON – The United States is “relatively close” to making decisions on what to do with an initial group of Guantanamo Bay detainees, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday.

Holder spoke to The Associated Press during a flight to London, the first of several stops where he will visit with European leaders to discuss terrorism, drugs and cyber-crime.

The attorney general did not say how much longer he thought it would take to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. Before officials can meet President Obama’s January deadline, the U.S. must first decide which detainees to put on trial and which to release to the U.S. or other countries.

Holder said the first step is to decide how many detainees will be set free. “We’re doing these all on a rolling basis,” he said. “I think we’re probably relatively close to making some calls.”

The attorney general has called the Guantanamo work the toughest part of his job.

After eight years in which the previous Bush administration alienated European nations over issues like the Iraq war and Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration is trying to strengthen those ties.

“I don’t think they’re looking for as much of American leadership as a partnership,” Holder said.

After arriving in London on Sunday night, the attorney general and his staffers took a tour of the Tower of London – home of The Bloody Tower, a historic torture site.

The tower visit is standard fare for tourists, but one loaded with extra meaning for Holder, who listened quietly to tales of torture, execution and palace intrigue.

The Obama administration is edging toward taking some Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S., most likely to Virginia. They are Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs, and their supporters say they never should have been at Guantanamo in the first place.

Republicans in Congress say Guantanamo should remain in operation and are mobilizing to fight the release of detainees into the United States.

Against that backdrop, Holder hoped to reassure skeptical Europeans without generating too much public opposition back home. After meetings in London and Prague, the attorney general is to give a speech Wednesday night in Berlin about Guantanamo.

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