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Gitmo prisoners could move to US in coming months

President Obama hopes to transfer a first wave of the last of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to America in the coming months as part of plans to finally shut down the notorious prison in Cuba.

The US could transfer 35 prisoners to American soil in the coming months and up to 60 by the end of the year, officials from the Obama administration said as the plans were submitted to Congress.

President Obama has repeatedly pledged to close Guantanamo Bay but has proven unable to fulfill the commitment during his time in office. Credit: Reuters

A Pentagon plan to close Guantanamo lists 13 US-based facilities which could be used for the transfers.

Officials said a one-time cost of closing the notorious facility and moving prisoners ranges from $290 million to $475 million (£205m - £337m).

The Obama administration hopes to work with Congress to change the law to allow the transfers of prisoners, though administration officials warned time is of the essence.

Barack Obama to make historic Cuba trip

Tourists walk past a large poster of Cuban revolutionary hero 'Che' Guevara. Credit: Reuters

Barack Obama will make a historic visit to Havana next month, becoming the first US president to visit Cuba in nine decades.

The brief visit - part of a trip to Latin American - is another step on the road to reconciliation between the US and Cuba, who have been estranged since the Cuban revolution in 1959.

Mr Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro moved to re-establish ties in 2015 when embassies were reopened in the respective countries.

Critics of the move point to the oppressive nature of the regime in Cuba, with Cuban-American Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz saying that Obama should not visit whilst the Castro family remains in power.

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Obama urges Americans to reject anti-Muslim rhetoric

Barack Obama urged Americans to reject "any politics that targets people because of race or religion", in what appeared to be a direct reference to Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration.

"This is not a matter of political correctness, this is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong," he said.

"The world respects us not just for our arsenal. It respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith."

"When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalised or a kid is called names, that doesn't make us safer - that's not telling it like it is, it's just wrong.

"It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country."

Republican hopefuls line up to attack Obama speech

Republican hopefuls Marco Rubio, Dr Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush. Credit: Reuters

While the official Republican response to the State of the Union address focused mainly on the party's own immigration debate, a number of GOP Presidential candidates attacked the President's speech.

Donald Trump tweeted twice to say that the speech was "boring", adding that the country needed "new leadership fast".

In a video posted to Twitter after the speech, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida - viewed by bookmakers as the likeliest challenger to Mr Trump - said Mr Obama had shown weakness on security and criticised his statement that climate change, not terrorism, was the world's biggest threat.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told NBC News Mr Obama's speech was "less a State of the Union than it was a state of denial", and said claims the economy was in a strong condition did not ring true.

And Florida Governor Jeb Bush also focused on the President's comments on security, claiming that the US had been soft on so-called Islamic State during his term in office.

Dr Ben Carson added that Mr Obama "should be talking less about global warming and more about how we can defeat ISIS and protect the homeland."

Republican State of the Union response focuses inward

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union. Credit: Reuters

Giving the Republican response to Barack Obama's State of the Union address, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley appeared to criticise the anti-immigration stance of some of the party's candidates.

After Mr Obama's appeared to take aim at rhetoric targeting immigrants, Ms Haley - the daughter of Indian immigrants - warned against following "the siren call of the angriest voices".

"Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America," she added.

In what was viewed as a possible reference to Donald Trump - who has proposed a temporary ban on allowing Muslims into the United States - she added: "Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference.

"That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference."

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