Obama to decide in 'next days' on Cuba's terror listing

AFP , Sunday 12 Apr 2015

Obama, Castro
US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands during their meeting at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. (AP Photo)

US President Barack Obama will decide in "the next days" whether to remove Cuba from a blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism, top diplomat John Kerry said Sunday, refusing to divulge what he had recommended.

Obama held historic talks on Saturday with Cuban President Raul Castro, meeting for more than an hour on the sidelines of a Panama summit as the two countries seek to bury decades of Cold War-era hostility.

But despite rampant speculation, Obama made no announcement about whether he had decided to meet Havana's demand to be struck from the blacklist.

Cuba was first put on the list, which also includes Syria, Sudan and Iran, in 1982 for harboring ETA Basque separatist militants and Colombian FARC rebels.

Secretary of State Kerry acknowledged Sunday that after a lengthy review his department has made a recommendation to the president.

"I'm going to allow the president the latitude which he deserves... to be able to make his decision based on the recommendation we made," Kerry told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"He will make his decision in the next days, as the inter-agency process works through what we have evaluated," Kerry said.

The United States and communist-run Cuba broke relations in 1961, the year Obama was born.

More than a half-century later, Castro and Obama stunned the world when they announced on December 17 that they would seek to restore diplomatic ties, the culmination of 18 months of secret negotiations.

Kerry's department is leading the negotiations with Cuban diplomats on paving the way towards restoring diplomatic ties.

But despite three rounds of talks since January, no announcement or visible progress has been made.

Havana has demanded that it be struck from the terror blacklist which has denied it valuable access to the global banking system.

Meanwhile, Washington is urging that if its embassy in Havana is to reopen US diplomats must have free access to meet with Cuban dissidents.

It had hoped that the two countries could re-establish diplomatic ties before the Summit of the Americas.

But Obama acknowledged in Panama "there will continue to be significant differences between our two countries."

"We will continue to speak out on behalf of universal values that we think are important. I'm sure President Castro will continue to speak out on the issues he thinks are important."

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