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U.S. Asks Bulgaria To House Guantanamo Detainees

SOFIA (Reuters) -- The United States has asked NATO member Bulgaria to house detainees from its prison camp at Guantanamo in Cuba, Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said today.

The transfer of prisoners is part of a drive by U.S. President Barack Obama to close the widely criticized jail set up by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to house suspected militants captured abroad.

Tsvetanov, who is also deputy prime minister in the new center-right government that won July elections, said Sofia was in talks with Washington about a possible transfer.

"We have not made any decisions yet," he told national radio. "We can only make a minimal contribution."

Washington's request will be discussed by parliament's committees on foreign policy, defense, and national security.

Online news provider quoted unnamed sources as saying that the United States wanted to send up to three detainees to the ex-communist Balkan country, which joined NATO in 2004. Mediapool said a similar request was rejected by Bulgaria's previous Socialist-led government.

Earlier this month, the French Foreign Ministry said two detainees at Guantanamo were sent to France and to Hungary.

Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year of taking office but he has acknowledged that the January 22 deadline would likely be missed because of political and diplomatic obstacles.

More than 200 detainees remain in the prison. About 90 have been cleared to be transferred but the Obama administration, limited by Congress from bringing them into the United States, has struggled to convince other countries to take them in.