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Bush officials consider Saudi request on detainees

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration is considering a request from the Saudi government that about 100 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be sent to Saudi Arabia for questioning because they are Saudi citizens.

But administration officials have made two points clear about the possible return of detainees to their home countries.

First, the United States wants to make sure that authorities would prosecute detainees in their native countries. Second, the United States does not intend to release any detainee until authorities have finished interrogations and gleaned as much intelligence as possible, the officials said.

"There's a lot of Saudi citizens that chose to fight for al Qaeda and/or the Taliban that we want to know more about," Bush told reporters Monday. "And ... we'll make a decision on a case-by-case basis as to whether they go back to Saudi Arabia or not."

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On Monday, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said about 100 detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay are Saudi citizens and asked that they be returned to his country.

"I appreciate his request, and we'll, of course, take it under consideration," Bush said.

Presidential counselor Karen Hughes referred the question to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush foreign policy team when asked about it Tuesday.

"As you know, the president is in the midst of considering the status of the terrorists who are being detained in Guantanamo Bay," Hughes said. "They're being well treated.

"But we have to remember that these are very dangerous people. These are trained killers who have already caused a riot in a prison camp in Afghanistan that killed one of our Americans," she said, referring to last year's prison uprising near Mazar-e Sharif in which CIA agent Mike Spann was killed.

Bush said Monday that the detainees would not be classified as prisoners of war but said he is considering whether the Geneva Conventions would apply to the detainees.

Camp X-Ray, the temporary detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, is holding 158 detainees. The administration has classified them as "unlawful combatants," a designation that allows them to be interrogated. Human rights groups have been critical of the administration's policy.

-- CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report




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