WASHINGTON (CNN) – The U.S. military prison at Guantanamo is unlikely to close by the Obama administration's deadline of January 2010, two senior administration officials said late Friday.
They cited legal complications for the delay, but said they were still optimistic about shutting the facility soon.
The announcement represents a blow to the president, who signed an executive order with great fanfare in January, during his first week in office, setting the deadline to close the facility.
The delay may provide fodder for Republicans like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has argued that shutting the prison would make the United States less safe. He said Obama should have had a detailed plan in place before signing the order.
In a written statement, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky noted the announcement, and said, "even White House officials are now acknowledging that there is still no alternative that will keep Americans as safe as housing detainees at that secure facility off our shores.
"Americans and a bipartisan majority in Congress will continue to reject
any effort to close Guantanamo until there is a plan that keeps Americans as safe or safer than keeping detainees in the secure detention center."
The senior administration officials insisted the White House is making progress in finding third-party countries to accept the remaining detainees.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN has learned that President Obama will name former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as his special envoy for the Middle East during an event at the State Department Thursday afternoon, according to a senior administration official.
Related: Mitchell is a seasoned foreign policy veteran
The move, which is meant to send the signal that Obama is planning to get actively involved in trying to help broker Mideast peace early in his term, will be announced at a 2:40 pm ET event with newly sworn-in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In recent days, Obama officials have talked to Israeli, Palestinian and Arab diplomats about the choice, sources close to the administration and diplomats told CNN.