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Obama tells envoys he's 'fully committed' to closing Gitmo prison

Nov. 5, 2013 at 3:15 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- President Obama remains "fully committed" to closing the military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, after a meeting with two government envoys, the White House says.

Clifford Sloan, the State Department's special envoy for Guantanamo closure, and Paul Lewis, his counterpart in the Defense Department, met with the president Monday at the White House six months after their positions were created, The Miami Herald reported.

Sloan began work July 1; Lewis started Friday.

The president thanked the envoys for their "important work" and made clear "he remains fully committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

A total of 164 detainees, most of them captured during hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, are held at the military base, where they are guarded by 2,100 troops and contractors. Eighty-four of the prisoners have been approved for transfer to their home countries or resettlement.

Obama told the envoys they had his "full support" of their efforts to transfer the detainees, the statement said.

Congress has thwarted the president's attempts to close the prison by banning use of federal funds for civilian trials or prisoner transfers.

"The Guantanamo facility continues to drain our resources and harm our standing in the world," the White House said. "We are spending almost $1 million per detainee per year to house detainees at Guantanamo -- that's nearly $200 million annually in an era of sequestration and tighter budgets."

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