Monday, March 28, 2011

Jimmy Carter visits Cuba amid tensions over Alan Gross

Former US president, Jimmy Carter shakes hands with Cuba's Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez at Havana's Jose Marti airport Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez greeted Jimmy Carter on his arrival

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US former President Jimmy Carter is in Cuba for a three-day visit that comes at a time of strained relations between the two countries.
Mr Carter has been invited by the Cuban government on what has been billed as a private trip.
But correspondents say he is widely expected to try to help secure the release of imprisoned US government contractor Alan Gross.
Washington and Havana have fallen out over the case.
Mr Gross was sentenced earlier this month to 15 years in jail for providing satellite communications equipment to Jewish groups in Cuba, under a programme funded by the US State Department.
The Cuban authorities say the equipment was intended to provide dissidents with access to the internet as part of efforts to destabilise the island.
On Friday, a US official in the Cuban capital told the AFP news agency it would welcome any intervention on his behalf by Mr Carter.
"We're hoping that he will talk with the Cuban government to ask for a humanitarian release," said Molly Koscina, a spokeswoman for the US diplomatic mission in Havana.
The US administration has said there can be no further major US initiatives to ease relations with Cuba while Mr Gross remains in jail.
Carter, who is 86, will meet Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday.
Mr Carter is the only sitting - or former- US president to have visited the Communist state since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
He has visited the island before, in 2002, when he urged the US to lift its trade embargo against Cuba. He also called on the Cuban authorities to introduce democracy and improve human rights.
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