By JORGE SAINZ | Associated Press

The prime minister of Spain, which played a key role in persuading the European Union to lift diplomatic sanctions against Cuba, has accepted an invitation from President Raul Castro to visit next year, a Spanish official said Tuesday.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said details of the trip by Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero still need to be worked out, but Moratinos believes it will go ahead. The minister made the announcement after meeting with his Cuban counterpart, Felipe Perez Roque.

The sanctions were imposed in 2003 after Cuba jailed 75 dissidents. The measures were lifted in June. More than 200 dissidents are still serving jail terms in Cuba, although 20 have been released.

In the talks here Tuesday, Spain also agreed to fund a two-year, euro24.5 million (US$34 million) program to help Cuba rebuild homes, schools and other structures destroyed by hurricanes Gustav and Ike this summer, Moratinos said.

Spain has also agreed to restructure part of Cuba’s euro1.5 billion (US$2.1 billion) debt with the Spanish government, and open up a new line of credit worth euro50 million (US$69 million) to euro100 million (US$138 million), Moratinos said.

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