Obama and Harper skirt Guantanamo detainee issue

Thu Feb 19, 2009 6:11pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not bring up the issue of a Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr when they met on Thursday, a senior Canadian official said.

Opposition parties had urged Harper to ask Obama to repatriate Canadian-born Khadr, who is charged with murdering a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15. They say he should be treated as a child soldier. He is 22 now.

Harper's stance has been that the charges are too serious for him to intervene in the case. Obama is having to decide what to do with Khadr and other Guantanamo detainees since he has promised to shut down the prison camp at the U.S. military base in Cuba

The Canadian official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said the case did not arise during the summit.

Opposition Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, however, raised it in a brief meeting with Obama at the end of his visit to Ottawa.

"The president thanked us for our concern, said they are reviewing all the cases, trying to figure out basically who the bad guys are," Ignatieff told CBC television.

"He distinguished between Type 1, Type 2, Type 3. He did not indicate which category in which he was placing Mr. Khadr, but was glad to know that a Canadian party's concerned about Mr. Khadr."

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Stephen Harper leave a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, February 19, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>