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U.S. Republicans want Libya suspect brought to Guantanamo

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Three Republican U.S. senators said on Tuesday that an al Qaeda suspect seized in Libya should be brought to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so he can be subjected to long-term interrogation.

Senators Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte and Saxby Chambliss said they hoped to urge President Barack Obama, via a congressional resolution or an amendment to an upcoming defense authorization bill, to adopt a policy for long-term detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

In a raid in Tripoli on Saturday, U.S. special forces seized Nazih al-Ragye, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Liby - a Libyan who is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians.

At a news conference, the Republican senators praised President Barack Obama for seizing Liby, now being held on a Navy ship in the Mediterranean.

But they disagreed with what they said was the administration's decision to keep him on a ship to be interrogated for 60 days, adding that that was not long enough to gather information.

"Putting him on a Navy vessel for a matter of days or weeks is not a proper way to gather intelligence in the war on terror. This system of using Navy warships in lieu of Gitmo compromises our ability to gather intelligence," said Graham, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading Republican voice on foreign affairs.

The call to bring Liby to Guantanamo comes as Obama pushes to close the detention center, where hundreds of suspects have been held for years without trial. The Pentagon named a special envoy to work on closing the prison earlier on Tuesday.

Graham said bringing Liby to Guantanamo would not complicate efforts to close it. The last new detainee arrived at the base five years ago, in 2008, before Obama became president with promises to shut the facility.

It was not immediately clear how much support any long-term detention measure might have from Democrats, who hold a majority of seats in the Senate. But there is strong opposition among many Democrats as well as from Republicans such as Ayotte and Chambliss to closing the Guantanamo prison.

Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said U.S. officials were still obtaining valuable information from detainees at Guantanamo as long as 10 years after many were first brought there.

The senators said Liby might have information on a wide range of subjects, from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, because he was captured in Libya.

"Make no mistake about it. This is the highest-value target we have captured in years, and this is a man who possesses significant information relative to the current operation of al Qaeda and all of its affiliates," Chambliss said.