Friday, July 25, 2008

Castro cryptic on Russian bomber report

Castro cryptic on Russian bomber report
Posted on Thu, Jul. 24, 2008
Associated Press Writer

Ailing Fidel Castro said Wednesday that Cuba's president was right to
adopt a "dignified silence" over a Moscow newspaper report that Russia
may send nuclear bombers to the island, and said Cuba doesn't owe any
explanation to Washington about the story.

In a brief, cryptic essay posted on a government Web site Wednesday
night, the 81-year-old former president neither confirmed nor denied the
Monday report in Izvestia newspaper.

Moscow is angry about U.S. plans for missile-defense sites in eastern
Europe and Izvestia cited a "highly placed" military aviation source as
saying, "While they are deploying the anti-missile systems in Poland and
the Czech Republic, our long-range strategic aircraft already will be
landing in Cuba." Izvestia said this apparently refers to long-range
nuclear-capable bombers.

Izvestia points out that there would have to be a political decision on
landing bombers in Cuba, and quoted the unnamed source as saying there
have been such discussions.

In Washington, U.S. State Department Acting Deputy spokesman Gonzalo R.
Gallegos said that American officials had received no official
confirmation from the Russian government about the newspaper report, and
was unaware of any U.S. efforts to directly contact Moscow about it.

"We continue to continue to work with the Russians on this issue,"
Gallegos said Tuesday, referring to talks aimed at explaining the U.S.
government's missile defense plan. "We have consistently made it clear
to them that our proposed deployment of a limited missile defense system
in Europe poses no threat to them or to their nuclear deterrent."

While Fidel Castro said the president, his brother Raul Castro, was wise
not to respond to the newspaper report, he did not make clear why he was

Fidel Castro also said Cuba is not obligated to offer the United States
an explanation about the newspaper report, "nor ask for excuses or

Despite Cuba's one-time alliance with the former Soviet Union, it seems
unlikely that Raul Castro would allow Russian bombers on the island and
risk the ire of the U.S. government.

Raul Castro has been president only since February, securing a seamless
transition from his brother, who ruled for nearly a half-century. He has
repeatedly said he is willing to discuss the two countries' differences
in talks held on equal terms with America's next president.

Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba during the height of the Cold
War pushed the world to the brink of nuclear conflict on Oct. 22, 1962,
after President John F. Kennedy announced their presence to the world.
After a tense week of diplomacy, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev removed

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