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Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 01:43:45 -0500
Sender: The African Global Experience <AGE-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
From: Marpessa Kupendua <nattyreb@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Subject: !*Clinton deflects Pope's call to relax Cuban Blocka


From: "Compa~ero" <companiero@gbso.net
Date: Thu, 22 Jan 1998 20:21:48 -5
Subject: Clinton deflects Pope's call to relax Cuban Blocka

Clinton deflects Pope's call to relax Cuban Blockade

21 January 1998

WASHINGTON, Jan 21 (Reuters) - U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday welcomed Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba, but gently rebuffed his call for Washington to "change" its 35-year-old economic embargo on the communist-ruled island.

"I'm glad the Pope is going there. I hope that we will have some real progress toward freedom and opening there," Clinton said in a television interview shortly after the Pope landed in Cuba for a historic first visit.

The Pope, asked by reporters on his plane if he had any message for the United States about the embargo, replied: "To change, to change."

But Clinton, speaking on the PBS program "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," made clear he had no intention of scrapping a long-standing policy of keeping the embargo in force until Cuba makes a significant shift toward Western-style democracy.

"I think that our previous policy, the one that we've had now and the one we've had through Republican and Democratic administrations of keeping economic pressure on and in denying the legitimacy of the Cuban government, has been a good policy," he said.

But he reaffirmed that Washington "would be prepared to respond to a substantial effort at a political or economic opening by Cuba."

"Nothing would please me greater than to see a new openness there that would justify our response on our part, and I would like to work on it. And I think (Cuban President Fidel) Castro knows that," Clinton said.

Clinton described the Polish-born Pontiff as "a very great man," and acknowledged that the Pope's views on Cuba were shared by all European leaders. "Only time will tell whether they were right or we were," he said.

Earlier, a State Department spokesman said: "We understand and respect the Pope's views opposing the use of economic sanctions in Cuba and elsewhere. However, the Cuban embargo is a matter of U.S. law and enjoys strong bipartisan support."

"I would also note that the Pope has also been critical of oppression and violations of human rights around the world. We are sure that he will remain consistent in his message to the people of Cuba," the spokesman, James Foley, said.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the Pope's visit was "clearly an important one."

"I think we'll be watching very carefully for how the Pope's visit goes on, and how he is received, and if there is a sustained appreciation of the possibilities for more religious as well as other freedoms in Cuba," she told reporters.

Albright said the run-up to the visit had already resulted in some expansion of religious freedom for Cubans, including recognition of the Christmas holiday.

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