March 28, 2008 Diplomats from both parties said the next administration also should talk with Iran.
By Greg Bluestein, Associated Press
ATHENS, Ga. - Five former U.S. secretaries of state yesterday urged the next presidential administration to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and open a dialogue with Iran.
The former secretaries, who served in Democratic and Republican administrations, reached a consensus on the two issues at a conference aimed at giving the next president some bipartisan foreign-policy advice. Each said shuttering the prison camp in Cuba would bolster America's image abroad.
"It says to the world: 'We are now going back to our traditional respective forms of dealing with people who potentially committed crimes,' " said Colin Powell, President Bush's first secretary of state.
Powell was joined by Henry Kissinger, James Baker III, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright at a round-table discussion sponsored by the University of Georgia at a sold-out conference center.
Kissinger called Guantanamo a "blot on us" and agreed it should be closed, but wondered aloud about the consequences of a closure.
Baker, a lawyer who served in President George H.W. Bush's cabinet, said that he had struggled with its legal implications and that Guantanamo "gives us a very, very bad name."
The former secretaries also urged that the United States open a line of dialogue with Iran, each saying it is important to maintain contact with adversaries and allies alike.
Albright stressed the importance of finding "common ground," and Christopher urged diplomats to explore opening contact with other "vectors of power," such as clerics and former political leaders. Albright and Christopher served under President Bill Clinton.
Kissinger, who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations, urged an open - if delicate - line of communication with Iran.