Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S., Cuba to Discuss Refugees

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S., Cuba to Discuss Refugees

Article excerpt

The United States and Cuba have agreed to resume talks in the hope of stemming the flow of refugees toward Florida, the State Department said Saturday.

State Department spokesman Michael McCurry said, "It was agreed to meet in New York shortly, as soon as travel arrangements are completed."

The talks will deal only with issues related to the promotion of legal, orderly and safe migration, he said. "We don't have an intent of expanding this dialogue, as we've said over and over again."

Cuban President Fidel Castro has demanded high-level negotiations on political issues, including the lifting of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

The United States will be represented by Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Skol. McCurry said he did not know who would represent Cuba.

The talks could begin as early as midweek, said a State Department official who asked not to be identified.

This will be one in a series of discussions the United States and Cuba have held on migration in the last decade.

The last session was in Santiago, Cuba, in December 1993. Past talks have resolved immigration cases dating to the 1980 Mariel boat lift, for example.

The number of people trying to leave Cuba in boats and rafts dropped off Saturday from the previous 24 hours. By Saturday evening, the Coast Guard had picked up 130 Cubans at sea to be taken to a camp at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On Friday, 585 were picked up after 1,670 were rescued on Thursday. Stormy weather in the last few days has kept most Cubans from trying to make the voyage.

Still, more Cubans plan to try to reach the United States. On the beaches near Havana, Cubans by the thousands are putting their final touches on rubber and wood dinghies.

They waited on Saturday for the calm water to return so that they could try to leave.

"If we don't end up in the U.S., that's fine," said Carlos Manuel Cruz, 27, who began rowing toward Florida this week, only to be turned back by the strong currents.

More than 16,000 Cuban boat people have been rescued by U.S. Coast Guard cutters since Aug. 1.

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