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Posted January 15, 2004 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Reuters in Buenos Aires

Diplomatic relations between Argentina and the US deteriorated into mudslinging yesterday after Washington said the country’s left-leaning government was too soft on communist-run Cuba.

Roger Noriega, US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, told reporters on Tuesday he was “disappointed” that officials visiting Cuba had failed to meet dissidents, a reference to foreign minister Rafael Bielsa’s recent trip.

Last year Argentina restored full diplomatic ties with Cuba under its new president, Nestor Kirchner.

“We consider the declarations aggressive… and inopportune,” the vice-foreign minister, Jorge Taiana, told local radio.

Mr Kirchner has also won few friends in Washington with his criticisms of the International Monetary Fund, blaming it for Argentina’s economic collapse in 2002.

The diplomatic spat could overshadow a scheduled meeting between Mr Kirchner and President Bush next week in Mexico.

Some US officials have said there is a growing alliance emerging between Cuba and Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, countries which have swung to the left in recent years amid a backlash against free market policies advocated by Washington.

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