Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said he had been upset by photographs of shackled Taliban prisoners in a U.S. prison camp and believed personally that they should be treated as prisoners of war with all corresponding rights. On Tuesday, speaking on behalf of Spain as the current holder of European Union presidency, Pique said he had no doubt the United States would respect the prisoners' human rights. He had said the EU did not need to make a formal statement on the extreme security measures the United States was using for the 158 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees from the Afghanistan war being held at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. But Pique said on Wednesday his view as an individual was different and that images of prisoners being bound and blindfolded had made him “surprised and uneasy”. “If I am allowed to express a personal opinion, which I shouldn't...I would say they are as close to prisoners of war as you can get and I would prefer the rights in the (Geneva) Convention to be applied,” Pique said during an interview with Antena 3 television. International humanitarian organisations insist the captives should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. The U.S. has so far not classified them as such. When questioned about the Middle East, the Spanish Minister said Israelis and Palestinians are further apart than ever and the peace process is frozen. “I have to say I am extremely worried... This is an endless spiral of violence, which has driven the peace process down a dead-end road,” he told Spain's Antena 3 television, referring to the latest waves of killings and counter-killings. Pique completed a tour of the Middle East last week. “I saw very conflictive positions,” he said, having talked to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during his first visit to the region since Spain took up the presidency of the EU. The EU condemned Israel's latest show of force.

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