updated 1/3/2009 2:14:36 AM ET 2009-01-03T07:14:36

Australia has told the United States for a second time that it will not resettle detainees freed from the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, the acting prime minister said Saturday.

Julia Gillard said U.S. President George W. Bush's administration was told Friday that a second request made in early December to resettle an unspecified number of detainees had been rejected.

"We advised the United States government that we would not be agreeing to those resettlement requests," said Gillard, who is filling in for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd while he is on vacation.

"Assessing those requests from a case-by-case basis, they had not met our stringent national security and immigration criteria and have been rejected," she told reporters in the southern city of Melbourne.

She said the government had similarly rejected a resettlement request from the Bush administration in early 2008.

The Bush administration made the latest request after U.S. President-elect Barack Obama promised to close the controversial prison.

Persecution?
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for proposals for transferring the remaining 250 or so detainees — amid concerns that some could be persecuted if sent back to their home nations.

Most come from Yemen, but others are from Azerbaijan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Chad, China and Saudi Arabia.

Some have been held without charge since the prison camp opened in 2002 to hold so-called "enemy combatants" accused of having links to the al-Qaida terror network or Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime.

Many European nations — which had long been loath to accept detainees from the prison — more recently indicated a willingness to resettle inmates.

Officials from France, Germany, Portugal and Switzerland have all said they are looking into accepting detainees from the U.S. prison.

More on Guantanamo Bay | Australia

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