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Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama answers questions during a press conference in the briefing room of the White House, Dec. 19, 2014.

President Barack Obama answers questions during a press conference in the briefing room of the White House, Dec. 19, 2014.

President Barack Obama says he will do everything he can to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He made the statement in a CNN interview broadcast Sunday. He said the prison continued "to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world." He said the United States was spending millions of dollars for each inmate housed there, and he said it ran contrary to the values of the United States.

"I'm going to be doing everything I can to close it," Obama said in the interview, which was taped Friday.

Saturday, the Defense Department said it had sent home four Afghan detainees held in detention at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. officials said the men had been long cleared for release and were sent as a mark of confidence in the government of new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

The return of the detainees is the latest in a series of recent transfers this year, including six men sent to Uruguay this month where they are resettling as refugees.

Guantanamo's prison population, which stood at 242 when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, has gradually declined to its current total of 132.

Dozens of the prisoners remaining at Guantanamo have been cleared for release or transfer, but they cannot go to their homelands for fear of persecution, lack of security or some other reason.

More than half of the remaining inmates are from Yemen, but the United States does not want them to return there because of the country's chaotic security situation.

The prison opened in January 2002, four months after the al-Qaida terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States. Human rights advocates have condemned the United States for holding prisoners without trial and for harsh interrogation techniques that were used at the prison.

President Obama took office nearly six years ago promising to shut the prison, citing its damage to America's image around the world. He has not been able to do so, partly because of obstacles imposed by the U.S. Congress.

The United States has also found it difficult to find countries willing to accept the prisoners.

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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