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Attorney General: U.S. Wants To Close Guantanamo

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the Obama administration is determined to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay before next year's presidential elections despite political opposition.

"There has been some strong opposition within Congress to the closure of the facility," Holder said at the European Parliament in Brussels. "On the other hand, there is equal determination on the part of the president."

The European Union has criticized the facility, which remains open three years after President Obama campaigned on a promise to shut it down and as his campaign for re-election gets under way.

"We will be pressing for the closure of the facility between now and then [the election] and after that election, we will try to close it as well," Holder said. "Some people have made this a political issue without looking at, I think, the real benefits that would flow from the closure of the facility."

More than 270 detainees are kept at the facility; lawmakers from both parties have been blocking their transfer onto U.S. soil.

In December, congressional conservatives spearheaded legislation that barred their transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. In several other congressional votes last year, many Democrats joined Republicans in opposing bringing such prisoners to the U.S. for trial or detention.

Holder also said that the United States would stick to the "fundamental break" with some interrogation techniques that were criticized around the world as amounting to torture.

Some suspected terrorists faced sleep deprivation and the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. In the wake of U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, a debate began over the extent to which such techniques led to the hideout where Bin Laden was found and killed.

"We have indicated that certain techniques that were used previously are in fact torture, and will not be engaged in again by the United States," Holder said.

The administration of President George W. Bush opened the prison for terrorist suspects at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

Reporter Teri Schultz and NPR's Carrie Johnson contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press

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