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Americas

US launches new round of talks with Havana

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Latest update : 2009-04-28

A senior U.S. diplomat held on Monday, his second round of meetings this month with Cuba's representative in Washington, the State Department said. USPresident Barack Obama has said he wants to "recast" relations with Cuba.

AFP - The United States on Monday held a new round of talks with Cuba, picking up the pace of dialogue while pressing the communist island to take action on human rights.
   
The meeting marks the second informal gathering between Washington and Havana in as many weeks. The United States said it would discuss recent diplomatic moves as well as concerns with Cuba's human rights record.
   
Tom Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for the Western hemisphere, met with the head of the Cuba interests section in Washington, said a US official, who declined further comment on the discussions.
   
State Department spokesman Robert Wood earlier indicated the two would discuss President Barack Obama's recent overtures to the island among other issues.
   
"I'm sure that there will be a discussion of the president's steps that he announced recently," Wood told reporters.
   
He said the United States would also press issues of concern.
   
"We're certainly willing to engage, but there needs to be reciprocal steps," Wood said.
   
"What we'd like to see are some steps to give the Cuban people some of the freedoms that are enjoyed by other peoples in the hemisphere," he said.
   
Obama has lifted travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives in Cuba.
   
But the US president opposes ending the 47-year-old economic embargo on Cuba until it shows progress on human rights.
   
The New York Times reported Sunday that the State Department was planning to hold more "informal meetings" with Cuba to test the waters for more formal dialogue between the long-time rivals.
   
Wood played down the significance of the latest talks, saying that "these meetings happen periodically."
   
He declined to specify the location of the talks, other than to say they would meet at a "mutually convenient location." The last session took place at the State Department.
   
The Cuban interests section in Washington runs out of the Swiss embassy in the absence of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba.

Date created : 2009-04-27

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