Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama reaffirmed on Friday his determination to close Guantanamo Bay, with backing from Congress or -- as a last resort -- by executive decree.
"Guantanamo continues to be one of the key magnets for jihadi recruitment," Obama told a year-end news conference.
"We see the Internet traffic. We see how Guantanamo has been used to create this mythology that America is at war with Islam," said the president, who made shutting down the military prison in Cuba a central electoral pledge.
Obama has repeatedly clashed with the Republican-dominated Congress for blocking his efforts to close the prison, and he left open the door to bypassing them altogether if they continue to do so.
"We will wait until Congress has said no to a plan with numbers attached to it before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here," he said.
The White House is currently working on a new proposal to close the prison set up in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
"I'm not going to automatically assume that Congress says no," Obama said. "Every once in a while they will surprise you."
Obama's remarks follow the announcement that 17 low-risk detainees will be transferred from Guantanamo Bay, probably in mid-January, putting the military prison's population below 100.