US names special envoy for Guantanamo closure

Photo: US names special envoy for Guantanamo closure / Other News

A diplomat has been appointed to focus on coordinating with other governments to accept inmates from the US prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, the US State Department announced Monday, dpa reported.

Secretary of State John Kerry appointed Cliff Sloan as special envoy for Guantanamo closure, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The posting "reflects the administration's commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," she said.

Sloan is a partner and appellate lawyer in a private law firm and was publisher of online magazine Slate from 2005-08. He was an associate White House counsel under president Bill Clinton and appeals litigator in the Justice Department under president George HW Bush.

President Barack Obama last month outlined steps to speed the closure of the Guantanamo prison and transfer its detainees to other countries, while the Defence Department is seeking a location in the United States to hold military comissions for trials of detainees.

The population at the Guantanamo prison, which opened in 2002 under Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, has declined from 242 when Obama took office in January 2009 to 166, Psaki said. More than 100 of the remaining men are on hunger strike over their indefinite detentions.

Obama has lifted a ban on sending detainees back to Yemen, where about half of the remaining inmates are from.

"As the president recently stated ... the continued operation of Guantanamo is not efficient, effective or in the interests of our national security," Psaki said.

Sloan "brings a wealth of experience as an accomplished litigator and pragmatic problem-solver, a skill set that will prove valuable as he serves as the lead negotiator for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad and manages the multitude of diplomatic issues related to the president's directives" to close the prison, implement transfers to other countries and conduct periodic review of detainees not approved for transfer.

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