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    Cuba meets with US lawmakers...


    Cuba meets with US lawmakers...

    Post by Guest on Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:29 pm

    Fidel Castro meets with 3 visiting US lawmakers

    By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer Will Weissert, Associated Press Writer – 14 mins ago

    HAVANA – Fidel Castro met Tuesday with three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the former Cuban president's first known meeting with American officials since he fell ill in July 2006.

    A spokesman at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana confirmed that Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, and two other lawmakers met with the ailing, 82-year-old Castro. He did not have further details nor could he provide the names of the other American leaders who attended the meeting.

    Lee led a delegation of six Democratic representatives who left Havana Tuesday after a five-day trip designed to encourage dialogue between the United States and Cuba, amid much speculation long-chilly relations may improve.

    Fidel Castro hails US congressional visit

    HAVANA (AFP) – Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Tuesday he values the "gesture" of a US congressional delegation visiting Cuba to discuss a possible dialogue between Havana and Washington.

    "I appreciate the gesture of the legislative group," Castro wrote in an article in official state media. "They are witnesses to the exceptional respect Americans always receive when they visit our country."

    Castro's younger brother Raul, 77, welcomed the US lawmakers -- seven Democrats from the Congressional Black Caucus -- Monday in the name of his ailing elder brother, a US nemesis for five decades.

    The Cuban president told the group that he was ready to speak with President Barack Obama's administration on condition of "equal sovereignty" and "respect," an official statement said Tuesday.

    Fidel Castro, 82, said the delegation found not hatred in Cuba but rather "a small Third World country that has been harassed, assaulted and blockaded for decades, and that can lead its poverty with dignity."

    He cited a member of the delegation, without naming the legislator, as telling Cuban officials that if Obama called for "lifting the blockade or a full normalization of bilateral relations, it would be impossible for him to be reelected."

    While campaigning last year, Obama said he was open to new dialogue with Washington's adversaries, including Cuba, and as president he has moved to lift some restrictions on US citizens traveling to Cuba and to ease cash transfers to the island.

    Another lawmaker said that the United States "should apologize to Cuba for all those years of hostility and the blockade policy, because only then can we move together in solving the dispute," according to Castro.

    "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," he said in an article on the Cubadebate website Sunday.

    The leader of Cuba's 1959 revolution called the 47-year-old US economic embargo on Cuba a "total failure." He also backed US Republican Senator Richard Lugar's recent proposal that the White House appoint a special envoy to review relations with Cuba.

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