Europe's take on Guantanamo

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LISA MULLINS: President Obama's defense of his Guantanamo policy was aimed mostly at a domestic audience but foreign audiences were listening in as well. Europeans for instance have been especially critical of the Guantanamo detention policy for years now. So we asked The World's Gerry Hadden to gather reactions from around the continent.

GERRY HADDEN: When President Obama promised to close Guantanamo within a year Europe erupted in cheers and they'll still be pleased after today's speech says Clive Walker, an international law expert at the University of Leeds in England. Because, Walker says, even though the U.S. Congress is balking, even though Mr. Obama has brought back the military courts, the president made clear he still plans to shut Guantanamo down eventually.

CLIVE WALKER: I think he's striking the balance in the circumstances in which he finds himself. Of course the balance which he's now striking is somewhat different from what he struck before his election. But it is still of course a world away, substantially different from the balance of the previous administration.

HADDEN: Walker says the president, in today's speech, made a convincing case for moving more slowly than he'd promised. Walker says the British can sympathize having struggled against IRA separatists for three decades.

WALKER: On the one hand seeking to of course deal effectively with people who would kill and injure and damage us in very serious ways and then on the other hand maintaining a society which is the kind of society we want to live in.

HADDEN: Spaniards are also sympathetic says Jose Antonio Alvarez Gundin, opinion editor of the conservative daily La Razon. He says that's because Spain is also fighting terrorists referring to separatists in the Basque Country. He says what he liked most about Obama's speech today was the president's emphasis on abiding by the law no matter what.


HADDEN PARAPHRASE: He says against terrorism there's no room for legal shortcuts. The law has to be applied to everyone equally. He adds, if the law isn't working you change it, you don't bend it.

HADDEN: Alvarez Gundin says the U.S. has a special responsibility to be law abiding because of its superpower status. But that status hasn't been strong enough to sway Spain and many other European countries to play their own role in shutting Guantanamo down � that is by taking in released Guantanamo inmates.


HADDEN PARAPHRASE: That's Austria's conservative Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger speaking last month in Brussels. He said Austria has strict rules for allowing people into the country and that his government will not tinker with them. Or in other words Guantanamo inmates don't qualify.

HADDEN: Germany hasn't entirely ruled out taking in detainees but the government wants more detailed information form U.S. on who the remaining 240 prisoners are and why they can't be imprisoned or resettled in America. Germany is partly responding to popular fear ahead of national elections in September. France has taken a released Guantanamo inmate. He's 42-year- old Algerian Lakhdar Boumediene. He arrived two weeks ago in Niece where he has family. He spent seven years in Guantanamo until a U.S. court ruled he'd been illegally detained.


HADDEN PARAPHRASE: In explaining why France accepted Boumediene, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Europe can't condemn the U.S. for Guantanamo then just wash its hands of the matter when the Americans are trying to close it.

HADDEN: For The World I'm Gerry Hadden.