Holder: Aim is to close Gitmo before elections

Spanish MEP Juan Fernandez Aguilar, left, looks on as United States Attorney General Eric Holder, right, speaks during a session at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

BRUSSELS -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Obama administration will do its utmost to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay before next year's presidential elections despite political opposition.

Holder said at the European Parliament that even if the current administration fails to close it ahead of elections, it will continue to press ahead if it wins the November 2012 presidential vote.

Republican presidential rival Rick Perry has said he is happy the U.S. prison at Guantanamo has been kept open.

Holder said the administration wants to close the facility "as quickly as possible, recognizing that we will face substantial pressure."

The campaign promise to close Guantanamo has been a major problem for President Barack Obama since he took office. He had promised to close the prison within a year but it remains open as his campaign for re-election gets under way.

"We will be pressing for the closure of the facility between now and then -- and after that election, we will try to close it as well," Holder said. "Some people have made this a political issue without looking at, I think, the real benefits that would flow from the closure of the facility."

The administration of George W. Bush opened the prison for terrorist suspects at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, and Obama, amid a clamor on both sides of the Atlantic to close the prison, vowed to do just that and move the detainees elsewhere.

In December, congressional conservatives spearheaded legislation that barred the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. In several other congressional votes last year, many Democrats joined Republicans in opposing bringing such prisoners to the U.S. for trial or detention.

Holder also said that the United States would stick to the "fundamental break" with some interrogation techniques that were criticized around the world as amounting to torture.

Some suspected terrorists faced sleep deprivation and the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. In the wake of U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, a debate began over the extent to which such techniques led to the hideout where Bin Laden was found and killed.

"We have indicated that certain techniques that were used previously are in fact torture, and will not be engaged in again by the United States," Holder said.

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