Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cuba's Raul Castro open to meet Obama: report


Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:07pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro is open to meeting U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on neutral ground to try to resolve the island's four-decade-old feud with Washington, according to an interview with a U.S. magazine.

The interview for The Nation was conducted by U.S. actor Sean Penn, who traveled to Havana after meeting Cuban ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and before Obama won the U.S. presidential election on November 4.

"You asked if I would accept to meet with (Obama) in Washington. I would have to think about it. I would discuss it with all my comrades in the leadership," Castro tells Penn in the interview for a December 15 issue published on its website.

"Personally, I think it would not be fair that I be the first to visit, because it is always the Latin American presidents who go to the United States first. But it would also be unfair to expect the president of the United States to come to Cuba. We should meet in a neutral place."

Obama has said he will reverse the Bush administration's policies that restricted Cuban Americans visiting Cuba and sending cash to their families there. He is willing to talk to Castro but would keep the 46-year-old trade embargo as leverage to influence democratic changes in the one-party state.

"Perhaps we could meet at Guantanamo," Castro says, referring to the bay where the U.S. maintains a naval base, which Cuba considers a violation of its sovereignty.

"We must meet and begin to solve our problems, and at the end of the meeting, we could give the president a gift ... we could send him home with the American flag that waves over Guantanamo Bay."

(Reporting by Patrick Markey, editing by Anthony Boadle)

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