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Military chief calls for closing Guantanamo

The US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen said Sunday that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay should be shut down because of the damage it has done to America's international standing, media reported.

“I'd like to see it shut down,” Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “I believe that from the standpoint of how it reflects on us that it's been pretty damaging.” But Mullen also said closing the prison posed major legal problems and a closure decision was not his to make. “There are enormous challenges associated with that,” he said. “There are enormously complex, complicating legal issues that are way out of my purview.”

On his first visit to the jail in Cuba since taking up his post in October, Mullen toured Guantanamo facilities including the construction site of a new high-security courtroom that US officials say should speed up inmate trials. Mullen noted that President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates also have spoken publicly in favor of closing the prison. But Mullen said he is unaware of any active discussion in the administration about how to do it.

Mullen's visit came two days after the sixth anniversary of the prison's opening in January 2002. On Friday, protesters in prisoner-style orange boiler suits staged demonstrations around the world, calling for the camp to be shut. Critics have charged that detainees have been mistreated in some cases and that the legal conditions of their detentions are not consistent with the rule of law.

Currently, the number of detainees at Guantanamo has dwindled to a low of 277 from a high of around 600 due to transfers and releases. Only four detainees have been formally charged. (Xinhua)