British Guantanamo prisoners set to be tried in US

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Indy Politics

President George Bush has strongly hinted that British prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are likely to be tried by a military tribunal in the US and not sent back to Britain.

In an interview on BBC1's Breakfast with Frost, the US President said that he wanted to find an agreement on the issue that Tony Blair was "comfortable with".

However, it appeared clear that the White House was determined not to give ground on its repeated view that it wanted a military court to deal with illegal combatants in Afghanistan.

Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, has raised with Washington the issue of British terrorist suspects detained without trial at the US naval base detention centre in Cuba. And civil liberties campaigners have complained about the treatment of the prisoners, whom the Americans refuse to recognise as prisoners of war.

The issue has been an embarrassing one for Mr Blair, with families of the detainees speaking out about their treatment.

Downing Street has been hopeful the Prime Minister can achieve a breakthrough on the issue. He has said in the past that the detainees should be treated in accordance with international law either in the US or in a British court.

Many in the British Government would prefer to see the men repatriated so that UK courts could deal with them. A civil court rather than a military one is the preferred option of the UK.

But President Bush refused to back down. He said: "The good news is: one, they'll be treated fairly; and two, I'm working closely with Tony [Blair] to come up with a solution that he's comfortable with - and I emphasise a solution that he's comfortable with.

"These prisoners were illegal combatants picked up off of a battlefield. And they're being well treated, and they will go through a military tribunal at some point in time - which is a military tribunal which is in international accord, or in line with international accords." The US President also ducked questions about British intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein could deliver weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

When asked by Sir David Frost if he ever believed such intelligence, President Bush replied: "I believed he was a dangerous man." When asked a second time, he said: "Well, I believed a lot of things."

During the interview, the President also sparked speculation about potential changes to his cabinet should he win a second term of office.

When asked whether the same team - the Vice President, Dick Cheney, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell and the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice - would serve in a second Bush administration, he replied: "It's been a fabulous team, and Cheney for certain.

"I'm not going to talk to my cabinet ministers until after the election. But I'm proud of this team. I've put together one of the finest administrations any president has ever assembled. These are good, honest, decent, hard-working, experienced people who give me good, unvarnished advice and when I make a decision say: 'Yes sir, Mr President, we'll go execute it'."

He also spoke of his and wife Laura's excitement at their impending stay in Buckingham Palace.

"It's a huge honour to be invited by Her Majesty to stay in Buckingham Palace," he said. "It's hard to imagine me even considering staying in Buckingham Palace. I mean, it's just one of those things - Buckingham Palace has got a tremendous mystique to it."

¿ British students will get the opportunity to study at leading American business schools as part of a new scholarship to be unveiled tomorrow by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

Potential young entrepreneurs will be able to spend up to half an academic year at business schools such as Harvard and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.