British Justice Secretary Jack Straw said Monday his country would consider taking Guantanamo Bay detainees if the United States asks for such help to close the detention facility.
Before Straw met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, reporters asked the two officials about the possibility of Britain taking some inmates from Guantanamo.
"We will do our best to help and support the policy of the Obama administration to close Guantanamo Bay," Straw said. "If we're asked, of course we'll consider" accepting detainees, he said.
Holder said the U.S. had not made such a request yet. The attorney general said American officials are still determining how to handle the different groups of detainees before making requests to other countries.
A day earlier, Holder said the U.S. is close to making decisions on what to do with an initial group of the remaining 240 detainees held at Guantanamo. First, though, Obama administration officials must reach an agreement on how many of those should be released, how many should be put on trial, and what to do with those who fall into neither category.
The attorney general is visiting Europe this week to discuss Guantanamo and try to boost international cooperation on a range of subjects, including terrorism, organized crime and cyber crime.
He spent most of Monday in closed meetings with police and law enforcement officials, including those with MI5, Britain's intelligence agency.
Holder heads to Prague on Tuesday for a gathering of European justice officials to formalize extradition agreements designed to speed investigations that reach across borders and oceans.
After Prague, Holder plans to travel to Berlin for meetings and a speech about Guantanamo.
Detainees to Virginia?
The Obama administration is edging toward bringing some Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S., most likely to Virginia. They are Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs, and their supporters say they never should have been at Guantanamo.
Seventeen Uighurs are held at Guantanamo. In recent weeks, officials reinterviewed them in preparation for their eventual transfer.
The Uighurs were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001. Uighurs are from Xinjiang, an isolated region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and six Central Asian nations. They say they have been repressed by the Chinese government. China has said that insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement.
Any country that takes them is likely to anger Beijing.
Republicans in Congress say Guantanamo should remain in operation and are mobilizing to fight the release of any detainees into the United States.
Some European leaders argue that if the detainees are to be released anywhere, it should be in the United States.
There are about 240 inmates at Guantanamo. As many as 60, if freed, cannot go back to their homelands because they could face abuse, imprisonment or death. They are from Azerbaijan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Chad, China, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees. Some nations, such as Germany, are divided on the issue.