US Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain has said that he will close the Guantanamo Bay prison if he is elected to the White House in November.
Addressing the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa Friday, McCain said that he agreed with the public opinion in Canada against the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison.
"Many Canadians have objected to the policies of the United States in dealing with terrorists and enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo prison.
"It happens that I also regard the prison in Guantanamo as a liability in the fight against radical extremism and as president of the United States I will close it," he announced amid thunderous applause by the audience.
There are about 270 detainees being held at the prison in the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Thirteen of them have been charged with crimes and are facing a trial under the military commissions while the rest are being held indefinitely without charges. The administration of President George Bush has drawn sharp criticism from various quarters for its alleged illtreatment of the prisoners.
McCain ostensibly came to Ottawa to score political points against his Democratic rival Barack Obama who has declared that he will reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as it lacked "enforceable labour and environment agreements".
A trilateral agreement for free trade signed by the US, Canada and Mexico in 1992, NAFTA came into force in January 1994.
McCain assured the Canadians that if elected he will not go back on any international agreement.
Without naming Obama, McCain said: "Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls."
Listing the benefits of NAFTA, he said: "Since the agreement was signed, the United States has added 25 million jobs and Canada more than four million. We have established North America as the world's largest economic market and the integration of our economies has led to greater competitiveness of American and Canadian businesses.
"Because of our common market, our workers are better able to compete, and to find opportunities of their own in the global economy."