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NY Times: Closure of Guantanamo Prison Will Take Longer Than Expected

VOA News 23 December 2009

The New York Times newspaper says the Obama administration may not be able to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and transfer terrorism suspects held there until 2011 at the earliest.

The administration announced plans last week to acquire an under-utilized state prison in the central state of Illinois to house up to 100 Guantanamo detainees. But the Times says the U.S. Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the facility, which would cost about $150 million.

The report says the White House approached lawmakers on the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee several weeks ago about adding $200 million to the 2010 military spending bill for the project. But Democratic leaders refused, due to the project's controversial nature.

The administration wants to buy the prison as part of efforts to fulfill President Barack Obama's order to close Guantanamo Bay. The president has acknowledged that the January 2010 deadline for closing the prison will not be met.

The plan to close the prison and house the terror suspects in the United States has been met with fierce opposition by some members of Congress.

Guantanamo, which now has some 200 inmates, has been harshly criticized by human rights advocates for the alleged abuse and mistreatment of detainees.

TheTimes says the Obama administration will not have another opportunity to secure funding for the Thomson Correctional Center until Congress takes up a supplemental appropriations bill for the war in Afghanistan. The bill is expected to be finished in March or April.

But the newspaper says the administration is more focused on securing funding for the Illinois facility in appropriations bills for the 2011 fiscal year, which will not be debated until late 2010.

Officials told the Times it could take eight to 10 months to install new fencing, towers, cameras and other security upgrades to the Thomson Correctional Center before any transfers take place.

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