Monday, October 31, 2005

Castro denies accepting US aid

Castro denies accepting US aid

IOL, South Africa, October 28 2005.

Havana - Cuban President Fidel Castro denied on Thursday that his
Communist government had accepted US aid for the first time in the wake
of Hurricane Wilma.

The US State Department said earlier its longtime foe Cuba, whose own
offer of help was snubbed by Washington after Hurricane Katrina, had for
the first time "in memory" accepted US disaster aid.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said a three-person US
assessment team was on stand-by to go to Cuba to see what was needed
after Wilma flooded Havana and western shore areas this week.

US aid would be funneled through a non-governmental organisation if it
were needed, he said, adding that Washington had sent a diplomatic note
to Cuba on Tuesday offering help and received a positive response a day

'We won't close the door'

Havana's reply to the US offer, read out by Castro on a live television
broadcast, said Cuba had not requested international aid. "That is not
an acceptance of aid," the Cuban leader said.

Castro, annoyed that Washington was distorting Cuba's intentions, said
Havana had only accepted a visit by the assessment team in an effort to
build regional cooperation in dealing with the growing danger posed by

"We have no objections at all to the three officials visiting us, to
know their assessment and exchange views on these matters," Castro said.
"We won't close the door."

Two months ago the United States did not take up Havana's offer to send
more than 1 000 doctors and tons of medical supplies to the United
States after Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast.

Cuba said the United States never formally responded to the offer for
political reasons, but State Department officials said the help was not

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