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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Sunday the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay for foreign terrorism suspects should be immediately closed and its inmates moved to the United States.
Powell, who in a 2003 speech to the U.N. Security Council made the case for war against Iraq for possessing weapons of mass destruction that were never found, said the controversial prison in Cuba had become a "major problem" for the United States' image abroad and done more harm than good.
"Guantanamo has become a major, major problem ... in the way the world perceives America and if it were up to me I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow but this afternoon ... and I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system," Powell told NBC's Meet the Press.
"Essentially, we have shaken the belief the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don't need it and it is causing us far more damage than any good we get for it," he added.
The United States is holding about 380 foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.
Rights groups and foreign governments have called for the prison to be closed, saying holding prisoners there for years without trial violated legal standards. But Washington says the prison is legal and necessary to hold dangerous individuals.
"I would get rid of Guantanamo and the military commission system and use established procedures in federal law," Powell said, saying some leaders around the world were using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds.
"It's a more equitable way, and more understandable in constitutional terms," he added.