COPENHAGEN, May 27: The United States should either charge the hundreds of detainees at its military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with a crime or let them go, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

"It is unacceptable to indefinitely detain prisoners regardless of what they may have done. It is absolutely essential in a law-abiding country that these detainees get clarity in their situation," Mr Rasmussen told the daily Jyllands-Posten ahead of a meeting with US President George W. Bush in Washington on Friday.

"We must insist that the Guantanamo prisoners fall under the Geneva Conventions," he said, adding that he had not been satisfied by the development in the Guantanamo affair, or with the case of the Danish prisoner who was freed in February after being held for two years without being charged.

Mr Rasmussen, a loyal ally of Washington, particularly over the US-led war in Iraq, contended that the US treatment of prisoners had blurred the superpower's real intentions of spreading liberty and democracy.

"In the west, we aspire to represent the principals of law- abiding nations, and we should also lead by the best example," he said. "That's why it destroys all confidence in our true intentions (to defend these basic principles) when people can point out prisoners who have been detained indefinitely," he added.

Mr Rasmussen has long defended the American policy at Guantanamo, repeatedly claiming that he had no reason to believe that the US was not respecting international conventions.

There are approximately 600 detainees from 42 countries at the US military base in Guantanamo. Most were captured in Afghanistan as part of the US "war on terror" following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Washington has classified the prisoners as "enemy combatants" rather than as prisoners of war, drawing major criticism from governments and human rights organizations world wide. -AFP

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