'Obstinacy and cruelty'

Felipe Perez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, has blamed the sanctions for damaging the island's economy by $93 billion over the decades.

He welcomed the assembly vote, but said he also looked ahead to future US-Cuban relations following next week's presidential election.

Perez Roque said the next US president "will have to decide whether to concede that the embargo is a failed policy which each time creates greater isolation and discredits his country or whether he continues, with obstinacy and cruelty, to try to wear out the Cuban people with hunger and diseases".

Barack Obama, the US Democratic presidential candidate, has said he might be willing to hold top-level negotiations with Raul Castro, the country's president, but Republican John McCain has said he would press the Cuban leadership to free political prisoners held there.

A national survey by the Zogby polling organisation, released on October 2, said 60 per cent of Americans believe the US should change its policy towards Cuba.

'Terrible conditions'

Ronald Godard, the US State Department's senior advisor for Latin American affairs, defended the embargo and blamed the government in Cuba's for its economic problems.

"The real reason the Cuban economy is in terrible condition, and that so many Cubans remain mired in poverty, is that Cuba's regime continues to deny its people their basic human and economic rights," he told the assembly.

The margin of support for ending the embargo has grown steadily since 1992 when 59 countries voted in favour of the resolution.

The figure was 179 in 2004, 182 in 2005 and 184 in 2007.