Ban Echoes Annan on Gitmo Closure; Sheehan Leads Protest at Naval Base despite Cuba Travel Restriction
Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
NEW YORK - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the United States to shut down the Guantanamo Bay military prison, setting up a potential conflict with the Bush administration ahead of a visit to Washington next week.
"I understand today is the fifth anniversary of Guantanamo prison," Mr. Ban said at his first press conference since replacing Kofi Annan as secretary-general on Jan. 1. "Like my predecessor, I think Guantanamo should be closed. And I remember that President Bush himself said he would like to close it."
As he spoke, about a dozen peace activists led by Cindy Sheehan marched in protest outside the fence surrounding U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The protesters, who traveled to Cuba in spite of tight U.S. restrictions on travel to the island by American citizens, reportedly walked from the Cuban city of Guantanamo to the prison, where they tied flowers to the barbed wire fence.
U.S. officials were unable to say last night whether the marchers had violated any U.S. law by traveling to Cuba. Several other small protests were reported both in the United States and outside U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.
At his press conference in New York, Mr. Ban defended his early appointments to high-level U.N. posts and urged skeptics to judge the people on their merits and performance, rather than gossip.
He expressed desire for greater global involvement in conflicts in Somalia and Darfur and promised to work closely with the five nations that have been negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Ban appointed longtime U.N. staffers as chief of staff and head of U.N. administration and management. Some staff members and U. …