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Republican defense bill would fund Guantanamo, bar transfers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading Republican congressman proposed legislation on Monday that critics say would force U.S. President Barack Obama to keep the Guantanamo Bay military prison open and fund renovations, despite his renewed bid to shut it down.

Representative Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also included language in a 2014 defense authorization bill that would again prohibit transfers of inmates to the United States or countries like Yemen without certain guarantees to Congress.

The bill would also authorize $247.4 million for construction costs, after warnings by the military that temporary facilities built more than a decade ago are crumbling.

"This bill prevents the administration from closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," Adam Smith, a lawmaker from Washington state and the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement.

Smith said the construction upgrades envisioned by the bill included building permanent facilities.

"This is a ridiculous waste of money and we should be closing this expensive and unnecessary facility," he said.

The camp at Guantanamo Bay holds 166 prisoners, most of whom have been held without charge for more than a decade. About 100 are on a hunger strike and dozens are being force-fed to keep them alive.

On taking office in 2009, Obama ordered Guantanamo Bay prison closed by January 2010 but missed the deadline, partly because Congress imposed tough restrictions on where prisoners could be transferred.

The hunger strike has put pressure on Obama to act and last month he promised to end the ban on transferring Yemenis back home, one of the main obstacles to clearing out the camp.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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