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Cuban foreign minister calls for US relations

Rodriguez wants to be friends with the U.S.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Monday he wants to re-establish relations with the United States, with a focus on humanitarian and other issues.

“The Cuban government reiterates its willingness and interest to move toward the normalization of relations with the United States,” Rodriguez said.

“Today I reiterate the proposal of beginning a dialogue aimed at solving bilateral problems, including humanitarian issues, as well as the offer of negotiating several cooperation agreements to combat drug-trafficking, terrorism, human smuggling, prevent natural disasters and protect the environment.”

The foreign minister said the two countries have many points of understanding in common.

Prominent among the humanitarian issues pending between the two countries is the continued detention of US citizen Alan Gross, who the Cuban government has accused of illegally smuggling in communications equipment while on a USAID-funded democracy building program.  Earlier this year he was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the state.

Cuban officials including President Raul Castro accused him of spying, but Gross claimed he was only wanted to help the island’s tiny Jewish community get Internet access.

The case has harmed chances for improved relations between Washington and Havana, which briefly seemed to be getting better after Obama assumed the presidency.

Another stumbling block may be former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  In his first opinion column since early July, the patriarch accused President Barack Obama of speaking “gibberish” in his recent address to the United Nations and called NATO’s actions in Libya a “monstrous crime”.