WASHINGTON The U.S. government intends to revive a vacant position coordinating policy for the military prison camp for foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is looking at candidates, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama is facing renewed pressure from foreign governments and human rights advocates to close the prison who assail it as a lasting stain on the United States' international reputation.
Obama last month renewed his years-old pledge to try to close the camp, where the United States is holding about 166 detainees, in most cases without charge or trial. Some detainees have been there since 2002 and scores are on hunger strike in protest against their indefinite detention.
In January, the U.S. State Department reassigned the special envoy, Daniel Fried, who had been in charge of trying to persuade countries to take Guantanamo inmates approved for transfer and no one was assigned to take his place. The vacancy was viewed by many Guantanamo inmates and rights group as a strong sign that Obama did not consider closing the prison a priority.
"We're in the process of working on that now. We're looking at candidates," Holder told a news conference. However, he did not say who the candidates were to fill the position of coordinating Guantanamo, or whether the person eventually appointed would work at the State Department, the White House or elsewhere.
Holder, the highest U.S. law enforcement official and an Obama appointee, has supported using the civilian courts to put some of the remaining detainees on trial.
The administration will make "a renewed effort to close Guantanamo," Holder said, citing the prison's high cost and the impact on U.S. relations with other nations.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Howard Goller and Christopher Wilson)