Cuba seeks JK help over US sanctions

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Ustaz Hussein
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Cuba seeks JK help over US sanctions

Postby Ustaz Hussein » 04 Dec 2009, 17:15

By The Citizen Correspondents

Cuban President Raul Castro has urged his Tanzanian counterpart, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, to use his closeness to the United States administration to have the decades long economic sanctions against his country lifted.

Mr Castro, the younger brother of former President Fidel Casto, told Mr Kikwete, who was on a three-day visit a state visit to Cuba, that he should plead on the island nation's behalf to have the US sanctions dropped.

A dispatch from Havana, where the two leaders held official talks on Tuesday, said President Kikwete had accepted the request and pledged that Tanzania would assist where possible.

Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe, who accompanied the President on the visit, briefed journalists soon after the closed-door meeting between the two leaders, and confirmed that an official request had been made.

"We have held talks over the US sanctions against Cuba spanning several decades and accepted the request to intervene with a view to having them dropped," Mr Membe said.

The minister said Cuba had shown faith and confidence in Tanzania�s mediation role, informed by the recognition that Mr Kikwete has been close to the US leadership in recent years.

"Cuba believes Kikwete can secure a positive bargain on the sanctions and has asked him as a friend of the US to hold talks on their behalf," said Mr Membe, adding that Tanzania would also use any opportunities in the United Nations to advance the diplomatic initiative.

Tanzania's former minister for foreign affairs, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, is the UN deputy secretary general.

Mr Membe said Havana's hope for better times had been bolstered by the election of President Barack Obama, whose decision to close the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention facility, off the coast of Cuba, had been warmly received in that country.

However, Cuba was apprehensive that Mr Obama might not make a difference, as he would require the crucial support of the Senate to see through most of his commitments.

Mr Membe said Tanzania's friendship with the US and its position on the international stage would not be jeopardised by its decision to help out Cuba.

Last month, the Cuban Ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Ernesto Gomez Diaz, appealed for support to pressure the United States to free five of their nationals being held in American jails.

President Kikwete arrived in Havana on Monday from Trinidad and Tobago, where he had attended the Commonwealth heads of state meeting.

He was among several other Presidents, who immediately flew to Cuba to hold talks with Mr Raul Castro. Raul succeeded the ailing Fidel Castro, who has been a sworn bitter enemy of the US since the early 1960s.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was also in Havana for a state visit - his second. He held separate talks with President Castro after paying homage to Cuban national hero Jose Marti.

Other heads of government, who pledged to consolidate ties with Cuba, included Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the Seychelles President James Alix Michel.

Among the sanctions that Cuba wants lifted is that barring direct flights from the US and a trade ban imposed after the two severed diplomatic relations in 1962, after Fidel nationalised all American owned companies and declared a communist state.

Mr Raul Castro's request to President Kikwete was not surprising, as Tanzania's stature in international relations has been on an upswing, with both the current US leader, Mr Obama, and his predecessor, Mr George Bush, having a favourable view of the country.

Tanzania has remained the oasis of peace in a region characterised by social unrest and political turmoil.

Mr Kikwete was the first African leader to be hosted by President Obama in the White House early in his presidency to signal continuing confidence in Tanzania's leadership.

According to a White House statement issued after the meeting, the presidents "had a valuable discussion on a range of issues" and "exchanged views on approaches to enhancing the US�Tanzanian partnership, improving development policy in the fields of health, education, and agriculture, and working with other partners in the region to solve some of the most pressing conflicts on the African continent."

Mr Kikwete and Mr Obama also discussed some of the African continent�s biggest challenges, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Somalia and the post-election violence in Kenya.

The Tanzanian leader also met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, were among a range of Obama administration officials who sat in on the Oval Office meeting.

Mrs Clinton later visited Kenya and delivered a stern warning from Mr Obama on the government's slow governance reforms pace.

Former President Bush and his wife, Laura, also chose Tanzania as one of the four countries he visited towards the end of his tenure.

He portrayed the country as a centrepiece of a tour intended to show the successes of his health and humanitarian policies Africa during a presidency dominated by his controversial handling of Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The other countries he visited were Benin, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia, whose presidents, the US has described as a new generation of democratic African leaders who need backing with health and education support and some military cooperation.

Mr Bush famously told President Kikwete during his address at the Dar es Salaam State House: "You are a good man, Mr President, and I am proud to call you friend."

He skipped neighbouring Kenya but threw his weight behind a power-sharing deal to end the violence that killed 1,000 people following a disputed presidential election in December 2007.

He sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Nairobi to help mediation by former UN chief Kofi Annan, who was later, joined by President Kikwete to secure a deal.

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