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Posted June 07, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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Associated Press

NEW YORK—The U.S. government presented Cuba with a list of 636 people denied exit permits by Fidel Castro and demanded on Friday that they be allowed to travel to the United States.

Kevin Whitaker, coordinator for Cuban affairs in the State Department, handed the list to Rafael Cespedes, North American division director in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, during a meeting at the United Nations.

‘‘One of the things that we are very concerned about is that there are many Cubans who have valid entry documents to enter the United States but are refused exit permits by the Cuban government,’’ said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.

The talks, held alternatively in Havana and New York every six months, were set up by 1994 and 1995 accords designed to promote orderly migration between Cuba and the United States. The agreements helped stop an exodus of an estimated 30,000 Cubans who took to the sea in U.S.-bound boats and rafts in the summer of 1994.

The United States routinely presents Cuba with a list of people denied exit permits. During the current discussions, Cuba was expected to repeat its earlier complaints about the U.S. government’s failure to keep up with a backlog in visa requests by Cubans seeking to emigrate to the United States.

Under the accords, Washington is supposed to grant 20,000 travel documents each year to Cubans seeking to emigrate.

The current round of talks is the first since bilateral relations unraveled further because of hijacking attempts by Cubans trying to reach Florida and a Cuban government crackdown on hijackers and dissidents. The relationship further deteriorated last month after the United States expelled 14 Cuban diplomats.

Meanwhile in Havana, government officials said the European Union is simply following U.S. policy by launching a review of its relations with Cuba after an island crackdown on dissidents and the firing-squad executions of three convicted hijackers.

‘‘The European Union has been incapable of formulating its own policies toward Cuba,’’ Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Friday after a news conference announcing Havana’s formal bid to host the 2012 Olympic games.

In a sharply worded statement issued by Greece on Thursday on behalf of the entire 15-nation bloc, the EU said it was “deeply concerned about the continuing flagrant violation of human rights and of fundamental freedoms of members of the Cuban opposition and of independent journalists.’‘

Herald staff writer Nancy San Martin contributed to this report.

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