Foreign terrorism suspects being detained at the U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may be allowed to have their cases reviewed, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday as he welcomed Australia to the U.S. missile-defense shield.
It is very likely that there will be a mechanism that will be established and we would have the effect of giving individuals the opportunity to be reviewed in the appropriate time, he said.
Rumsfeld also said that Australian prisoners at Guantanamo Bay would be investigated.
His comments follow a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that all detainees at Guantanamo Bay, who were captured in the fighting in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, should be given due process and have the right to challenge their detention. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon's lawyers were reading the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter.
The comments came at the U.S. State Department where Rumsfeld, along with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, welcomed Australia into the controversial missile-defense shield program. Critics in Washington have compared the program to President Reagan's ill-fated star wars program and the Australian opposition Labor party has said the shield is likely to spark an arms race in Asia.
Australian Defense Minister Sen. Robert Hill acknowledged his country did not see any threats now, but said the shield was needed as protection in the future.
For us that's a long-term investment, he said. We believe that we have the responsibility to address the threats of not only today but also the threats we might face the future.
The 25-year deal is expected to lead to the development of advanced radar technology that can provide early detections of ballistic missiles in the event of an attack.
Australia became a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks and has troops in Afghanistan. It is also part of President Bush's coalition of the willing and has contributed troops to Iraq.
The Australian troop presence in Iraq has become a key election issue in that country with Labor leader Mark Latham vowing to bring the forces home by Christmas if his party wins in elections that are expected to be held this year. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said, however, that his country was in Iraq for the long haul.
We reaffirmed the fact that Australia is going to stay the course in Iraq, he said. We're going to stick by the Iraqi interim government and help them achieve their objectives and help Iraq become a free nation. This isn't a time for a country like Australia to turn its back on the Iraqi people and cut and run.
In a joint communiqué, the two countries welcomed the handover of power to an interim Iraqi government and noted the importance of holding elections by January 2005. They also called on the international community to help with Iraq's reconstruction.
The meetings produced several defense-cooperation agreements. The two countries also issued a joint statement on interoperability of armed forces and on the cooperative development of a joint combined-training capability.
By creating a training environment in Australia to test and evaluate our forces in a wide range of scenarios, our countries should be better able to integrate our military capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st century, Rumsfeld said.
Hill said the Australian Defense Forces would gain from the cooperation because of more sophisticated U.S. instrumented ranges and simulation. The United States could gain, he said, by using some Australian training facilities.
The Australian government will enhance the Shoal Water Bay training area in Queensland, the Delamere air range in the Northern Territory and the new Bradshaw range in the Northern Territory for training.
Both of our forces can take opportunities to train together to the highest possible standard, he said.
Hill said he would welcome U.S. training stocks in Australia associated with joint use of training bases, noting that Singapore already maintained training stocks in his country as an economic way in which to do business.
The two sides also discussed the global war on terrorism. They noted that terrorists could obtain weapons of mass destruction, labeling the possibility a major strategic threat. They also agreed that Southeast Asia was a key front in the war on terrorism and said they would work with governments in the region to combat terror.
Eight-eight Australians were among 202 people killed during the Bali, Indonesia, blasts of October 2002.
Other issues discussed were:
- North Korea's nuclear weapons program and international cooperation, including the recently concluded six-party talks, to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
- How to work together to provide more security for international shipping.
Wednesday's meeting was the 16th in the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Meetings. The first meeting was held in 1985; next year's meeting will be held in Canberra.
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