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White House Dismisses Guantanamo Closure Reports

The Bush administration says it is working towards shutting down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but has dismissed reports that its closure is imminent.

A White House spokeswoman Friday said media reports about Guantanamo closing soon are wrong. She said there was a meeting planned for Friday to discuss Guantanamo but it was canceled because "it was decided there was no need for such a meeting at this time."

Guantanamo continues to receive new inmates. The Pentagon said today that Haroon al-Afghani, accused of commanding several terror cells, was transferred from U.S. military custody in Afghanistan to Guantanamo in the past few days.

A spokesman says al-Afghani was involved in setting roadside bombs in Afghanistan's Nangrahar province and acted as a courier for the Hezb-e-Islami and al-Qaida groups.

Some media in Washington report there is disagreement within the administration about where to transfer nearly 400 suspected terrorists if Guantanamo is closed. Among the suggestions is moving some detainees to military prisons on U.S. soil. But Vice President Dick Cheney and officials at the Justice Department are opposed to such a move because it would grant the detainees basic rights under the U.S. legal system.

The Guantanamo facility has been condemned by many countries and many people in the United States. Critics accuse the Bush administration of violating basic human and legal rights. There have been allegations of abuse, and four prisoners are reported to have committed suicide.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the administration's original system of military tribunals is not legal. Congress later passed a law creating a new system of military tribunals.

Military judges recently dismissed charges against two suspected terrorists, saying they were not properly designated as "unlawful enemy combatants."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says Mr. Bush wants to close down Guantanamo Bay, but in a "responsible way." She says there are several steps to be worked out, including sending some detainees back to their home countries.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.