Obama orders suspension of Guantanamo cases

In keeping with his campaign promise to shut down the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, US President Barack Obama has set the wheels in motion by ordering prosecutors to call on military judges to suspend cases for 120 days.


AFP - Barack Obama Wednesday began the job of hauling his crisis-weary nation out of its "winter of hardship" by taking action to halt Guantanamo trials and convening top economic and foreign policy aides.

His first move came in the form of an order to prosecutors at the controversial military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, seeking a suspension of the trial proceedings.

Military judges were expected to rule later Wednesday on the request, which would halt until May the military trials of five alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001 attacks as well as a Canadian held on accusations of killing a US soldier in Afghanistan.

A day after Obama's historic inauguration as the first black US president, key White House staff members were also set to pour into the presidential mansion, with the weight of financial and foreign policy threats suddenly resting on their shoulders.

Obama was due to spend the first part of his day seeking divine blessing for his presidency at a traditional prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral.

Then he was expected to call in his top economic lieutenants to start the task of repairing the ruptured US economy and shepherd a huge 825-billion-dollar stimulus package through the US Congress.

In a sign of the tough task ahead, the Dow Jones Industrials Average plummeted four percent on Obama's first day in office Tuesday as investors were spooked by deep problems in the banking industry.

Obama was also expected to meet his top military leaders to fulfill a campaign promise -- telling the generals to formulate a plan to get US troops out of Iraq, and reorienting military efforts towards the war in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Obama claimed his place in history as leader of a nation stained by the legacies of slavery and racial segregation, and told Americans they have to pull together to pick their way out of raging storms.

"We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," Obama, 47, said in a somber inaugural address to a stunning two million-strong crowd which took sharp issue with the two-term Republican presidency of George W. Bush.

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many.

"They will not be met easily, or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met."

The former Illinois senator took office amidst the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, with tens of thousands of US troops locked in Iraq and Afghanistan and a nuclear showdown with Iran looming.

Obama's inauguration on the steps of the US Capitol, which was partially built with slave labor, broke the highest racial barrier in the United States and goes some way to reconciling civil rights leader Martin Luther King's dream of racial unity.

Obama vowed to reclaim America's place at the head of global powers, and signaled he would reject anti-terror tactics used by the Bush administration which critics say infringe US values.

"We reject as false, the choice between our safety and our ideals," Obama said.

"We are ready to lead once more."

Several estimates put the crowd on the National Mall at more than two million, and many in the throng wept as the new president spoke.

In his speech, Obama also sent an immediate message to the rest of the world, and Islamic nations in particular, after America's ties with some of its top allies were tarnished during the Bush years, especially over the Iraq war.

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

But he also warned that those who would use "terror" and slaughter innocents to threaten the United States would face an uncompromising response.

"Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred," Obama said. "We say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

Obama called on Americans to launch a "new era of responsibility" as the economy sinks deep into recession, brought on by massive stocks of bad mortgages and debt.

The new president also said the United States would join other nations in rolling back "the specter of a warming planet."

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