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U.S. calls off migration talks as Castro fumes over transition committee.

On Jan. 7, U.S. officials suspended bilateral migration talks with Cuba--just one more sign that relations between Washington and Havana are getting worse.

Jim Cason, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said the talks were cancelled because Cuban officials refused to discuss several key issues, including Havana's failure to grant exit visas to about 200 Cubans who had been issued permanent U.S. entry visas.

"Migration talks are not mandatory under the Migration Accords," Cason said in a prepared statement supplied to CubaNews by public affairs officer Kelly Keiderling in Havana. "Most important is that American and Cuban government officials regularly discuss migration issues to encourage only a safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States."

Cuba's Foreign Ministry blames Washington for the breakdown in talks--which since the mid-1990s have been held every six months--accusing the Bush administration of "seeking new pretexts to aggravate tensions between the two countries."

Cason said his staff "we would agree to schedule talks when they agreed to discuss long-pending issues related to migration. We raised these issues in the last six sessions of talks, to no avail."

The main issues Cason says he wants to discuss are as follows:

* Cuba's obligation under the accords to issue exit permits to all qualified migrants, a matter of basic fairness.

* Cuban cooperation to hold a new registration for the Cuban visa lottery.

* the need for a deeper Cuban port for repatriations by the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure safety of life at sea.

* Cuba's reponsibility under the accords to permit USINT personnel to travel outside Havana to monitor returned migrants, and Cuba's obligation under international law to accept the return of Cuban nationals determined to be excludable from the United States.

"As soon as the Cuban government lets us know that it is ready to discuss a productive agenda, we'll be ready to consider scheduling another round of migration talks," said the USINT chief.

Meanwhile, Castro continues to attack the Bush administration's formation of a Cuba transition committee in Washington to "oversee a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba" once Castro is gone.

Asked about Castro's angry reaction to the committee, headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Cason told CubaNews: "We don't have any comment on Fidel's comments on Colin Powell's comments."
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Publication:CubaNews
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:384
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