Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cuban Foreign Minister:Cuba urges US to act fast in improving relations

Guatemala City, Jan 24 : Cuba has urged the new US administration of President Barack Obama to act fast towards improving relations between Washington and Havana, EFE news agency reported Saturday.

"We are ready to sit down at a table and talk in a civilized manner, but it is not up to Cuba to take the first step," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said at a press conference Friday in Guatemala City, where he was attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the Non-Aligned Movement.

"Cuba aspires to having normal and respectful relations with the United States," he said, calling on Obama to carry out "a profound revision" of US policy toward Havana, one that would include putting an end to the economic embargo Washington imposed on the communist-ruled island in 1962.

The minister also praised Obama for signing executive orders to close the detention centre for suspected terrorists located on the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.

"The Guantanamo naval base remains against the will and desire of the people and the government of Cuba," Roque said.

The two countries have had no diplomatic ties since shortly after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959, though each maintains an interests sections in the other's capital.

Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro and his brother, President Raul Castro, had recently expressed warm words for Obama, which were in sharp contrast with decades of anti-US rhetoric.

Fidel, retired and still convalescing from the serious illness that forced him to effectively step down in July 2006, has called Obama a honest man and praised his inaugural address.

In an article titled "Reflection", the leftist leader said he "did not harbour the slightest doubt about the honesty with which Obama".

Raul has said more than once that he was prepared to meet with Obama at a time and place of the US leader's choosing.

--- IANS

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