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Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 19:01 UK

Guantanamo closure target 'tough'

Guantanamo guards with a detainee on 11 January 2002
The prison was opened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says meeting President Barack Obama's 22 January deadline for closing the Guantanamo Bay camp will be "tough".

In interviews with US TV networks, Mr Gates said that closing the camp was proving more complicated than expected.

Mr Gates played down the importance of possibly pushing the date back.

More than 220 inmates are in the camp. Some are expected to be sent to other countries, others could face military tribunals or be tried in US courts.

In the latest case of former detainees being sent abroad, two men thought to be citizens of Uzbekistan landed in Ireland on Saturday to be resettled there.

Iranian dispute

In comments to CNN, Mr Gates said that closing the camp had "proven more complicated than… anticipated".

"I actually was one of those who said we should [set a deadline] because I know enough from being around this town that if you don't put a deadline on something, you'll never move the bureaucracy," he said in a separate interview with ABC.

"But I also said and then if we find we can't get it done by that time but we have a good plan, then you're in a position to say it's going to take us a little longer but we are moving in the direction of implementing the policy that the president set."

Mr Gates was also asked about the West's dispute with Iran over its programme, which has worsened following the disclosure of a second Iranian uranium-enriching plant.

"While you don't take options off the table, I think there's still room left for diplomacy," he told CNN.

He said additional, "severe" sanctions could exploit "deep fissures" in the Iranian regime, but played down the use of any military strikes against the newly-revealed site.

"The reality is, there is no military option that does anything more than buy time," he said.

He added that Iran would have to provide "convincing evidence" for its argument that its nuclear programme is peaceful at a meeting with the US and five other powers on Thursday.



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