(06-12) 11:03 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --
The State Department on Monday sought to distance itself from comments by a U.S. official calling suicides at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay a "good P.R. move."
"We would not say that it was a P.R. stunt," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, using the acronym for public relations. "We have serious concerns anytime anybody takes their own life."
Colleen Graffy, deputy assistant U.S. secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the deaths at the facility in Cuba were a "good P.R. move to draw attention."
Graffy's comments have stoked a fresh round of international criticism against the U.S. treatment of detainees from human rights groups and newspaper editorials.
Two Saudis and one Yemeni hanged themselves after being held at the prison camp for about four years without any charges being filed against them. About 460 men accused of links to Afghanistan's Taliban or the al-Qaida terror network are still being held. Most have been held for more than four years without charge.
The suicides triggered worldwide condemnation of the isolated detention center at the U.S. military base in southeast Cuba.