‘Cuba will watch Obama policy before opening talks’ (Lead)

December 6th, 2008 - 2:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaHavana, Dec 6 (IANS) Cuba has said it will watch “practical actions” by the incoming US administration of Barack Obama before reconciliation talks could begin, EFE reported Saturday.”We can’t say anything yet, practical actions must be seen by the Obama administration after it takes office on Jan 20,” Felipe Perez Roque told reporters when questioned about Havana’s future relationship with Washington.

Roque’s statement came in the wake of remarks by Cuban leader Fidel Castro in a signed article published Friday that Cuba is ready to open transparent and sincere negotiations with the US.

“We’re not attacking the United States, we’re not the ones carrying out a blockade, it’s the United States who should take the decisions to rectify the current situation,” Roque said, referring to Washington’s 46-year-old economic embargo on the Caribbean island nation.

“We hope, and we’re ready, to normalise relations one day, we’ve always said so, between the United States and Cuba on the basis of respect for our rights as a people,” Perez Roque.

When asked about Obama saying he was in favour of eliminating the additional restrictions the Bush administration imposed on travel and remittances to Cuba, the foreign minister said that “if he does so, it will be a first positive step.”

“Our people have the right to hope that, at last, our right to choose our own way will be respected, and that they will eliminate all the restrictions and aggressions they have made us suffer for five decades and that have cost our country more than $90 billion,” he said.

In a signed article posted on the Cubadebate website former president Fidel Castro has said the communist government of the island can open talks with US president-elect Barack Obama, but the “carrot and stick approach” will not work.

“We can talk to Obama wherever he wants, since we do not preach violence or war. He should be advised that the carrot-and-stick approach will not work with our country”, the former Cuban president said in one of his articles published Thursday on the Cubadebate web site.

After Fidel Castro delegated power to his younger brother Raul Castro in July 2006 because of ill health, the Cuban government had expressed on occasions its willingness to negotiate with the US.

In an interview with American actor Sean Penn last month, Raul Castro said he was willing to talk with Obama in a “neutral place,” such as the US Navy Station at Guantanamo Bay.

Fidel Castro’s remarks were the first by a Cuban leader after Obama won the 2008 US presidential elections.

The former president said had better assessment of Obama, the first African-American to be elected president of the country.

In Obama, “I saw much more ability and dominance of the political arts than in his rival candidates, not only in the opposing party but also inside his own,” the Cuban leader said.

“He (Obama) is demonstrating faculties that allow me to see and compare his ability with that of his mediocre rival John McCain,” he said in the article “Navegar contra la Marea” (Sailing against the Tide).

Following Obama’s election, some 55 percent of Miami’s Cuban-Americans say US government should end its economic embargo on Cuba and 65 percent say it should re-establish diplomatic ties with the island, a new poll shows.

The strong support for lifting the 46-year-old embargo reflects a change in South Florida’s Cuban-exile community, which has traditionally backed the sanctions until the communist government in Havana frees political prisoners and embraces democracy.

Fidel Castro, who has been convalescing from a grave illness since July 2006 and has not been seen in public since then, formally handed over office to younger Castro in February this year, though he still holds the position of the first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party.

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