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Obama ready to close Guantanamo

MOVING quickly to reverse many former Bush administration policies, President Barack Obama yesterday prepared national security moves that included preparations to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, review military trials for terror suspects and ban harsh interrogation tactics.

°?Obama also was set to name a highly respected veteran politician to serve as special Middle East envoy. This was seen as a step towards making good on a campaign pledge to be more robustly involved in efforts to help peace efforts in the volatile region.

The Republican opposition in the United States Congress, meanwhile, said it would seek a meeting with Obama to voice growing concerns about portions of his plan to spend US$825 billion in a bid to reverse the country's perilous economic slide.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said his party wanted to work with the new administration, but that many facets of the stimulus program wending its way through Congress would not create jobs, a vital requirement as unemployment numbers climb. Cantor spoke on CBS television yesterday.

As the new president moves into his second full day in office, a senior Obama administration official said that Obama would sign the order to shutter the Guantanamo prison within one year. Critics of the lockup at the US Navy base in Cuba say its use violates detainee rights.

A draft copy of the order, obtained on Wednesday by The Associated Press, notes "in view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

The executive order was one of three expected on how to interrogate and prosecute al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters. The administration has already suspended trials for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo for 120 days pending a review of the military tribunals.

An estimated 245 men are being held at the US naval base in Cuba, most of whom have been detained for years without being charged with a crime.

Obama also had in hand executive orders to review military trials of terror suspects and end harsh interrogations, a key part of aides' plans that had been assembled even before Obama won the election on November 4.

Obama's policies are expected to focus on restoring the US image abroad by breaking with some of the most controversial policies of the Bush administration.


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