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Spain to fight for lifting of EU sanctions on Cuba
[June 15, 2008]

Spain to fight for lifting of EU sanctions on Cuba

(EFE Ingles Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Madrid, Jun 15 (EFE).- Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Monday will defend in Luxembourg the lifting of sanctions imposed on Cuba by the European Union in 2003 to protest the imprisonment of 75 opponents of the Castro regime.

Moratinos will speak in the Council of Ministers for general affairs and foreign relations of the need to remove the diplomatic sanctions, which were suspended in 2005, to open up a dialogue with Cuban authorities coinciding with the process of change recently initiated on the communist island.

Spain, along with Germany, France and Italy, is leading the effort to take steps toward dialogue and cooperation with Cuba, but other EU members such as the Czech Republic refuse to resume relations as long as there are no equal gestures by Havana toward the dissidents.

According to diplomatic sources, the government believes that removing the sanctions "can stimulate the process of change" and benefit the civil population, without lessening the defense of the political prisoners.

The reestablishment of contacts with Cuba would not "legitimize or give a blank check" to the Castro regime, but rather encourage the hopes for change and could affect all sectors of civil society, sources said.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero last Thursday defended the need to "take steps" in the EU in favor of Cuba due to the measures of a "positive" nature taken by the Havana regime, now led by Raul Castro.

Spain is maintaining its own dialogue with Havana, which includes the human rights situation on the island, as well as cooperation projects initiated since Moratinos traveled to Cuba in April 2007.

The government is ready to continue moving forward and expanding upon this strategy, although it recently replaced one of its designers, the former director general for Iberoamerica, Javier Sandomingo.

The Council of Ministers last Friday named Sandomingo Madrid's ambassador to Peru after four years at the head of the General Directorate.

The replacement will not affect the "continuity" in the policy pursued by Moratinos and by the secretary of state for Iberoamerica, Trinidad Jimenez, toward Cuba because "the lines of activity are already defined," Foreign Ministry officials told Efe.

The EU imposed sanctions on Cuba in 2003 after 75 dissidents were sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years and three men who tried to hijack a passenger ferry to Florida were executed.

The mild diplomatic sanctions imposed by the bloc on Cuba included restricting official visits to the island and inviting dissidents to embassy receptions. The decision to keep inviting dissidents or not was left to each member state. EFE


Copyright ? 2008 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.

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