US defends Guantanamo ahead of Merkel visit

10th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 January 2006, WASHINGTON - The United States on Monday rebuffed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's call for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for suspected terrorists, an issue Merkel says she will take to President George W. Bush this week.

10 January 2006

WASHINGTON - The United States on Monday rebuffed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's call for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for suspected terrorists, an issue Merkel says she will take to President George W. Bush this week.

"Everybody hopes we get to the point where we don't need a facility like this. But we are not at that point." U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. "Guantanamo serves a purpose and it's there for a reason."

"If these people were released they'd be right back in the fight," he added.

Merkel told Der Spiegel magazine that an alternative to Guantanamo must be found and that she intends to press her views with Bush at their White House meeting on Friday.

The United States holds about 500 detainees at the naval base on Cuba. The facility has been the focus of intense international criticism from human rights groups, some foreign leaders and the European public.

"An institution such as Guantanamo cannot and ought not to exist long term in this way. Means for a different treatment of the prisoners need to be found," Merkel told the weekly magazine Monday edition.

Merkel is making her first trip to Washington since succeeding Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor in November. She has vowed to improve U.S.-German relations, which soured badly over Schroeder's strong opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

DPA

Subject: German news

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