Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rice Criticizes Spain Over Cuba Policy

Rice Criticizes Spain Over Cuba Policy Wires
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

BERLIN -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Spain on
Tuesday for its dealings with Cuba and said she would press Spanish
officials on the issue in Madrid this week.

After several years of tense relations with Spain, Rice is set to make
her first visit as the top U.S. diplomat to Madrid on Friday. She will
meet King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and Foreign
Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

"On Cuba, I am not sure that we see eye to eye," Rice told reporters
traveling with her to Germany where she is meeting Group of Eight ministers.

The United States has a policy of isolating Cuba and its ailing
President Fidel Castro. Spain, on the other hand, favors constructive
engagement and its foreign minister visited Cuba last April.

Rice said a country like Spain that had overcome its own "authoritarian
past" -- a reference to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco - knew of the
need for democracy in a nation such as Cuba.

"I don't see how that course (of democracy) is advanced by simply
dealing with the current regime, a regime that seems to be setting
itself up for a non-democratic succession when the transition takes
place in Cuba and doing that at the expense of contacts with the very
nascent and fragile democratic opposition that is beginning to arise in
Cuba," she said.

"The Cubans deserve better and I think we will talk about that," Rice said.

Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul in July last year
after emergency surgery and the United States has been strongly critical
of the move, calling for free elections and an end to the Castro era.

U.S.-Spanish ties have been strained since Spain withdrew its troops
from Iraq in 2004 following the election of Zapatero who trounced Prime
Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a close ally of President George W. Bush.

The two countries have cooperated on Afghanistan and other issues. But
differences on Iraq persist and Rice's visit is seen as an attempt to
smooth over tensions.

Spain's ties with Venezuela's anti-American President Hugo Chavez have
also irked the Bush administration which sees Chavez as meddlesome in
the region.

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