updated 1/21/2007 11:02:24 PM ET 2007-01-22T04:02:24

A panel of British lawmakers urged the government Sunday to work with the United States to develop an alternative to holding terror suspects at Guantanamo -- aiming to speed up the closure of the much-criticized U.S. military prison.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee released a report that also called for an overhaul of the Geneva Conventions and suggesting Prime Minister Tony Blair lead efforts to update the international standards to reflect the challenge of terrorism.

"The international community as a whole needs to shoulder its responsibility in finding a longer-term solution" to the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo.

"We recommend that the government engage actively with the U.S. administration and with the international community to assist the process of closing Guantanamo as soon as may be consistent with the overriding need to protect the public from terrorist threats," the report said.

About 395 foreign men currently held at Guantanamo are allegedly linked to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Human rights groups have condemned the U.S. for operating the prison, where most detainees have been held for years without being charged.

The U.S. government has blocked their access to U.S. courts, claiming it has the authority to detain them indefinitely to keep America safe. The military says many of those imprisoned provide interrogators with information about terror networks. The U.S. has operated the prison for five years.

Nine British nationals held at the facility had been released by January 2005, but the committee said it believed another nine former British residents remained at Guantanamo. Human rights lawyers have said they were aware of eight ex-British residents being detained.

Seven panel members visited Guantanamo in September. Though the image of inmates "kneeling in the dirt, shackled and hooded" was no longer accurate, the report said Guantanamo failed to achieve minimum British standards "on access to exercise and recreation, to lawyers, and to the outside world through educational facilities and the media."

In October, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said Guantanamo was "unacceptable in terms of human rights" and "ineffective in terms of counterterrorism."

Blair has gone no further than calling the camp an "anomaly" that sooner or later must end.

The committee called on Blair and his successor to help change the Geneva Convention that governs treatment of prisoners of war to "deal more satisfactorily with asymmetric warfare, with international combatants and with the status of irregular combatants."

President Bush has said the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Guantanamo detainees, who were classified as "enemy combatants" -- a status that accords them fewer rights than prisoners of war.

Britain's Foreign Office said it would not comment on the report until a formal response had been sent to the committee.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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