PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday the United States would close the Guantanamo Bay facility holding terrorism suspects in Cuba, despite missing a previous deadline to do so.
On an official visit to Paris, Holder stressed what he called unprecedented intelligence-sharing ties between France and the United States against a united enemy, al Qaeda, that he said still held the two countries and its allies in its sights.
The recent killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was unlikely to affect the timing of the closure of the Guantanamo facility, Holder said.
“Although we have not closed Guantanamo within the time period that we initially indicated … it is still the intention of the president, and it is still my intention, to close the facility that exists in Guantanamo,” Holder told a joint news briefing with French Interior Minister Claude Gueant.
“We think that by closing that facility the national security of the United States will be enhanced,” he added.
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the Guantanamo Bay facility in the first year of his presidency and transfer its inmates to prisons in the United States.
Obama has said the center, set up by his predecessor George W. Bush, has helped drive recruitment for anti-American groups and that allegations of mistreatment of prisoners have hurt America’s reputation.
Holder said it would take time for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to go through the trove of data collected from bin Laden’s compound, adding the information would be shared with allies as soon as possible.
“With the death of bin Laden, the world is safer but the world is not yet safe,” said Holder. “In addition to bin Laden and within the al Qaeda network, there are still parts of that organization that want to strike France, that want to strike the U.S. and our allies,” he said.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; editing by John Irish and Jon Boyle)