One of Palau's many fine tropical lagoon beaches
Apparently getting desperate as options for resettling the 17 Chinese Uighurs detained at Gitmo have dwindled, the Obama Administration is hoping to send the unwanted Muslims from China's far west to a south pacific island paradise, AP reports:
As they attempt to fulfill President Barack Obama's order to close the Guantanamo facility by early next year, administration officials are looking to Palau to accept some or all of the 17 Uighur detainees due to fierce congressional opposition to releasing them on U.S. soil, officials said.
The Republic of Palau is a nation of 21,000 people located some 500 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. One of Palau's larger islands, Peleliu, was the site of a bloody battle in World War II, as U.S. forces "island hopped" across the Pacific seizing Japanese-held strong points. After the war, Palau came under U.S. administration along with a number of other Pacific islands. It opted for independence in 1994 but continues to have a loose affiliation with the U.S., which is responsible for its defense. It's major attractions are its beaches and lagoons where tourists frolic in the 82-degree average temperatures.
Tiny country or not, the Paulauans are no rubes and appear to be driving a hard bargain:
"We have spoken with the Palauans, but neither they nor we have made any decisions," the official said. That official and two others spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks.
Two of the officials said the United States was prepared to give Palau up to $200 million in development, budget support and other assistance in return for accepting the Uighurs and as part of a mutual defense and cooperation treaty that is due to be renegotiated this year.
$200 million! That's more than $11,700,000 per Uighur!! Bet that buys a whole lot of scuba diving, sunsets over the blue Pacific, and drinks with little umbrellas in them.
If I were a Palauan, though, I'd want to be awfully sure that my mates and I could still vote the Uighurs off the island, if things don't work out nicely.
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(Hat tip: Contentions)
UPDATE -- 6/11/09 -- Four of the Uighurs have already been resettled in another sunny island paradise, Bermuda (a British territory), but British Prime Minister Gordan Brown seems less than thrilled by the action of the Bermuda authorities in ac cepting them.