TOLEDO, Spain – The United States' desire to close its military prison in Cuba remains "unabashed" even though a deadline set by Washington to do so has passed, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday in Toledo.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order on January 22, 2009 — two days after he took office — promising to close the U.S. military prison in southern Cuba within the first year of his mandate.
"The plan is to still work for closure," Napolitano told a news conference in Toledo when asked about the passing of the deadline.
"We have known for some time now that it was not going to be met because assembling the information about the detainees and moving them out of Guantanamo is very difficult and we have to do it in the right way," she added.
"We have had cooperation from many countries, in Europe and other continents, but it takes time to do it in the right way. That is the intent we will continue to moving in that direction, if it takes longer, it takes longer," she said.
"The goal and the intent remain the same and the will to do so is unabashed," Napolitano added.
Some 196 detainees remain at the U.S. military prison in southern Cuba, including dozens already cleared for release, down from around 250 when Obama took office. Most have been held without charge or trial.
The prison is widely seen as a symbol of abuses carried out in the name of America's war on al-Qaida and other extremists.
But a Gallup poll published November 2009 found almost two-thirds of those questioned were opposed to the detention centre closing and to prisoners being brought to the United States.
Napolitano was in Toledo to take part in an informal meeting of interior and justice ministers from the 27-nation European Union.
© AFP 2013