Obama to Pick Diplomat to Help Close Guantanamo

WASHINGTON ~ The Obama team hopes to pick the top US diplomat on Europe to help close the Guantanamo Bay prison, a US official said Wednesday as Washington looks to European capitals to take in some prisoners.

Dan Fried, the outgoing assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, is likely to land the new position, the official told the AFP newswire on condition of anonymity.

“It is expected that he (Fried) will be nominated for a position dealing with the presidential directive on Guantanamo Bay,” the official said. “This is not a position that would need Senate confirmation.”

As part of his duties, Fried would have to persuade European and other countries to take prisoners who are believed too dangerous to be released, the official said.

European Union nations have welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision on January 22 to close the detention center at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and are keen to help Washington do so.

However, due to widely differing laws among the 27 EU countries, they are struggling to define a common position on how best to help, as they await an official request to accept former inmates.

A high-level EU delegation will travel to Washington on March 16-17 to find out exactly how US authorities decided that around 60 of the more than 240 prisoners could be released and why they cannot be hosted by the United States.

Obama’s order signaled a sharp reversal of the controversial Bush administration “war on terror” policies launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks which have exposed America to sharp criticism abroad.

Signing the Guantanamo order which also halted any further military hearings of the inmates, Obama said he was setting in place a process by which the camp “will be closed no later than one year from now.”

Last week, the White House said it planned to have Phil Gordon succeed Fried in the job of assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.

Gordon has for the last eight years worked on US foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based policy research institute.

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