Obama proposes to lift moratorium on transferring Guantanamo inmates to Yemen

Obama proposes to lift moratorium on transferring Guantanamo inmates to Yemen

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Obama proposes to lift moratorium on transferring Guantanamo inmates to Yemen

In this July 16, 2009 file photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, flags hang above the sign marking the Camp Justice compound, the site of the U.S. war crimes tribunal, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. AP photo

U.S. President Barack Obama May 23 launched a new bid to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, seeking to rein in a "boundless" US war on terror.

In a major policy speech, Obama said the United States faced a new threat from "diverse" terror franchises and the growing threat of homegrown radicals, after putting Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan on the path to defeat.

"We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us," Obama warned at the National Defense University, seeking to reframe US counter-terrorism posture more than a decade after the September 11 attacks.

"Neither I, nor any President can promise the total defeat of terror ... what we must do -- is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger," Obama said.

Specifically, Obama said he would lift a personal moratorium on transferring Guantanamo Bay inmates to unstable Yemen, and said he would appoint a new senior envoy to oversee transfers.

He also called on the Pentagon to designate a site on US soil to hold military tribunals for terror suspects now at Guantanamo Bay, and said Congress must work with him to close a facility that has stained the US image abroad.

"I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it," Obama said.

"Imagine a future - ten years from now, or twenty years from now --when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country." The new effort to close Guantanamo, to try to honor a promise that Obama broke in his first White House term, comes with 103 of the remaining 166 inmates on a hunger strike.

The U.S. president may also name a new high-level official to manage the closure of the camp and could transfer CIA drone war functions to the Pentagon.

Obama has blamed fierce opposition in Congress for the halting of transfers -- though he imposed his own moratorium on sending inmates home to unstable Yemen.

Yemen welcomes decision

Yemen said May 23 it welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to lift a moratorium on transferring prisoners from Guantanamo to Yemen.

"The government of Yemen (GOY) welcomes President Obama's remarks and actions today. In particular, Yemen welcomes the administration's decision to lift the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen," Mohammed Albasha, the spokesman for Yemen's embassy in Washington, said.

Yemen government said it would "take all necessary steps to ensure the safe return of its detainees and will continue working towards their gradual rehabilitation and integration back into society.

"Yemen's partnership with the United States is strong, and GOY values the ongoing cooperation to tackle mutual threats and promote the unity, stability, and prosperity of the nation," the embassy statement said.