Plea for normal US-Cuban relations
Appeal comes as Congressional Black Caucus delegates meet senior government officials.
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2009 15:47 GMT
The group of seven Democrats said they want the US and Cuba to sort out their differences [EPA]

The US and Cuba should normalise diplomatic relations, then sort out their differences, according to the head of a group of US politicians visiting the island.

Barbara Lee is leading the first congressional delegation to Cuba since Barack Obama became president in January.

The seven-member group of Democrats, made up mostly of African-American congress members, met Ricardo Alarcon, the parliament president, and Bruno Rodriguez, the foreign minister, on Saturday.

"Most of the members of our delegation believe we need to actually normalise relations and then the details of what that means would follow," Barbara Lee, a House member who is also chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said at a news conference in Havana on Sunday.

About principles

Describing the meeting with Rodriguez, Lee said: "We talked in broad terms, more about principles than about details, and what would make sense between two sovereign nations and how we would want to see those conversations proceed."
The Americans also toured various Cuban facilities, including a genetic engineering and pharmaceutical complex, and planned to visit churches.

Lee said the delegates hoped to meet Raul Castro, the Cuban president, aiming to get a better grasp of issues that should be discussed between the two countries, before returning home on Wednesday.

The US is the only country in the hemisphere, other than El Salvador, that does not have normal diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.

Mauricio Funes, the El Salvadoran president-elect, has announced he will establish both when he takes office in June.

Relations easing

Barack Obama, the US president, has ordered a review of Cuba policy, but insisted that the embargo will remain to pressure Havana towards democratic change.

While Obama could ease diplomatic relations with Cuba, lifting the embargo would need congressional approval.

The US congress is preparing to consider bills lifting most restrictions on US travel to Cuba.

A White House official confirmed on Friday a Wall Street Journal report that Obama would abolish limits on family travel and cash remittances between the US and Cuba, but the official said the move was not a policy shift or imminent.

Obama is to meet Latin American leaders later this month in Trinidad and Tobago.

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