LONDON, Aug. 7 — In a major reversal of policy, the British government today asked the Bush administration to release five British residents that are being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Under the previous government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain insisted that it had no obligation to assist the five men because they are not British citizens, even though they all had legal residence status in Britain.
“We saw this as an opportunity to achieve ultimately the closure of Guantánamo,” said a British official, speaking on the usual condition of anonymity.
To that the extent, the British move today, which came in a letter from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is almost certain to be welcomed by the Bush administration, which has been trying to reduce the number of detainees at Guantánamo.
The administration has in the past been critical of the British government, and other governments, which have called for the closure of Guantánamo but then have been unwilling to take back some detainees.
At the same time, today’s move could lead to some"