Thursday, May 31, 2007

Spanish PM to discuss differences over Cuba with Rice

Spanish PM to discuss differences over Cuba with Rice
Published on Thursday, May 31, 2007

MADRID, Spain (AFP): Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis
Rodriguez Zapatero said Wednesday that he will discuss differences with
Washington over Cuba when he meets with US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice later this week.

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. AFP PHOTO
Rice criticized Madrid's policy of constructive engagement with Cuba, a
former Spanish colony, on Tuesday, telling reporters that she was "not
sure that we see eye to eye" on the issue.

Washington has imposed a 45-year embargo on the communist Caribbean
island which prohibits most Americans from visiting Cuba and chokes off
nearly all trade between the two countries.

"Nations and governments do not have to have similar positions on all
foreign policy issues," Zapatero told reporters following talks in
Madrid with his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende when asked about
Rice's comments.

"It is understandable and reasonable because there are different
historical ties, because there are very different approaches over what
can and should be the future," he added.

"What is positive is that we are going to talk and when we do the
positions are going to be much more understandable and much closer,"
Zapatero said.

Last month Havana and Madrid signed an agreement creating a mechanism
for political consultations, including the sensitive human rights issue,
during a visit to Cuba by Spanish Foreign Minister Minister Miguel Angel

Rice is scheduled to hold talks with Zapatero and Moratinos on Friday in

Her visit will be the first by a US cabinet member to Spain since
Zapatero was elected in March 2004, ousting the previous conservative
government which had been a close ally of US President George W. Bush.

Shortly after he was elected Zapatero withdrew Spain's troops from the
US-led coalition in Iraq as promised during his campaign, sparking anger
from Washington.

Spain's ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of
the United States, have also contributed to a cooling of relations
between Madrid and Washington since Zapatero took office.

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