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Monday, January 15, 2007
Democrats want Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay prisons shut
Leaders of the Democratic Party in the United States Congress have outlined plans to force the Bush Administration to close the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

The two detention facilities that have sparked an international furore over the Bush Administration’s war policy.

Representative John P Murtha, chairman of the powerful Defence Appropriations Subcommittee and a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, says he wants to close both prisons by cutting their funding in order to “restore our credibility worldwide.” If he succeeds, it would force the Administration to find a new facility to detain suspected hard-core terrorists.

The effort to close the two prisons, which Murtha said Nancy Pelosi supports, illustrates how Democrats in Congress are confronting President Bush over his war policies. The aggressive push to change the war’s course has escalated after the President’s address to the nation on Wednesday night in which he announced plans to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

Democratic leaders will try to include the measure to close the prisons in a spending Bill designed to pay for war operations, Murtha said, and added that closing Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo would be more symbolic than substantive.

Abu Ghraib gained international disrepute in 2004 after pictures of US soldiers torturing and sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners came out in the open.

The Guantanamo facility, which has housed Al-Qaeda members and other terror suspects for over five years, has been a rallying point for criticism of the US policies in combating terrorism. Several human rights groups and a United Nations commission have called for Guantanamo to be closed down.

President Bush has defended the detention centre as a “necessary part” of the war on terror. He had declared in June 2006: “I would like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognise that we are holding some people that are darn dangerous and that we better have a plan to deal with them in our courts."

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the Speaker is not going to make a final judgment on whether the prisons should be closed until after Murtha's committee has hearings on the issue.

Murtha’s plan is the outcome of a new series of attacks on the President’s war plans being played out on Capitol Hill.

Democratic leaders of House and Senate say they still hope to change the President’s mind about the “troop surge” in Iraq by passing a non-binding resolution of disapproval in the coming weeks. But a growing number of Democrats say that, since Bush is almost certain to ignore such a resolution, more must be done to hasten the end of the war.

According to many Democrats, the most likely step would involve spending restrictions on the war budget.

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