Bush hails deal with Republican rebels on treatment of prisoners

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The Independent US

The Bush administration reached a deal with rebel Republicans last night on a bill defining the treatment and trial of top terrorist suspects, re-uniting the party on its signature issue ahead of mid-term elections.

The compromise was hammered out after almost a week of talks between the White House and three senior Republican Senators who pushed their own version of the bill through a congressional committee. This insisted that any legislation should bar torture, and make the US conform with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

Within minutes of the news, President Bush hailed the breakthrough on what he called the "top legislative priority" of what remains of the current Congress. He called on lawmakers to pass the measure before they adjourn next week for the election campaign.

The deal, he said, "preserves the most important tool we have to protect us" - the CIA "programme" of special secret camps outside the US where suspects, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other senior al-Qa'ida personnel were held.

It also resolves differences over the conduct of the tribunals at which Mohammed and fellow prisoners will be brought to trial. The Republican rebels, as well as almost every Democrat, had objected to the administration's insistence that evidence obtained under coercion should be admissible and that, if necessary, details of evidence against them should be withheld from defendants - even if they faced the death penalty.

John McCain, the most influential of the rebels, said "the integrity and letter and spirit of the Conventions have been preserved."