The Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to temporarily accept 17
Chinese Muslims who are being held at the U.S. military detention
facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Palau President Johnson Toribiong issued a statement saying his country
would be "honored and proud" to honor Washington's request to
temporarily resettle the ethnic Uighurs.
The Obama administration had been negotiating with several nations to
take the Uighurs, who were cleared for release as early as 2003. The
Bush administration had refused to designate them as "enemy combatants."
China accuses the Uighurs of terrorist activity and had been pushing
for their return to China, but Washington refused the request out of
fear they would be tortured.
In an interview with VOA's Mandarin Service, Palau's minister of state,
Sandra Pierantozzi, said the small island nation is not concerned about
China's likely displeasure over its acceptance of the Uighurs. The
country does not have diplomatic relations with China, but does
maintain ties with China's longtime rival Taiwan.
Muslim Uighurs are the dominant ethnic group in China's Xinjiang
province. Beijing has accused the Uighurs of violent separatism in
pursuit of an independent "East Turkestan."
Chinese officials have said the Uighurs held at Guantanamo were members
of the East Turkestan Islamic movement, a terrorist organization on the
United Nations Security Council sanctions list.
A U.S. federal judge ordered the Uighurs released last year into the
United States, but an appeals court overturned that decision in April.