Washington: US President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to make a new push to close the American military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the US military sent extra medical personnel there to deal with prisoners on a hunger strike.
The prisoners are protesting conditions and their long detentions.
Guantanamo Bay is "contrary to who we are", unsustainable and harmful to US interests, Obama told reporters at the White House, pledging to "go back at this" and work with Congress to close the facility, which since 2002 has housed suspected terrorists and enemy combatants, captured in the US-led war on terror.
The controversial detention facility "is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists, it needs to be closed," Obama said.
He blamed Congress for the fact that the detention centre was still open and holding 166 detainees.
Nearly 100 detainees at Guantanamo were on a hunger strike as of Tuesday, and 21 of them were being fed through a tube, US Army public affairs officer Lt Col Samuel House was quoted as saying by international media.
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama said, defending the decision to force feed some of the detainees.
He insisted the best way to try suspected terrorists was in the civilian court system, and reiterated his conviction that Guantanamo must close.
The US Navy sent 40 more nurses and other medical specialists to Guantanamo over the weekend as more detainees joined the hunger strike.
The strike started 12 weeks ago to protest poor conditions and the “indefinite nature” of inmates’ detention at the facility.