Castro says Cuba right to rebuff EU dialogue offer

HAVANA Thu Jun 28, 2007 12:15pm EDT

Soldiers line up in Havana June 19, 2007. Cuba was right to reject calls from the European Union for negotiations to improve relations until the EU scraps sanctions against the island, Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in an editorial published on Thursday. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Soldiers line up in Havana June 19, 2007. Cuba was right to reject calls from the European Union for negotiations to improve relations until the EU scraps sanctions against the island, Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in an editorial published on Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Claudia Daut

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba was right to reject calls from the European Union for negotiations to improve relations until the EU scraps sanctions against the island, Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in an editorial published on Thursday.

In his latest commentary in the ruling Communist Party newspaper, Granma, Castro also criticized the EU as a political project in disarray and suggested that Brussels had been duped by the United States into taking a hard line with the Caribbean country.

"The European Union has been led by Washington into a dead-end with no honorable exit," Castro wrote.

The 27-member EU reached out to Cuba last week, inviting a Cuban delegation to Brussels to explore a thaw in ties on the condition that it agree to discuss human rights on the island.

But Cuba's Foreign Ministry rebuffed the offer on Friday, saying talks can only happen when the EU lifts sanctions imposed on the island in 2003.

Relations between Cuba and the EU soured that year after Brussels froze diplomatic contacts with Havana following the arrest of 75 Cuban dissidents in a crackdown. The EU eased restrictions on some lower-level contacts in 2005.

Castro's article was the latest of several in recent weeks in which the 80-year-old revolutionary has urged Cubans to remain defiant in the face of criticism from foreign countries, especially from the United States, which has imposed an economic embargo on the island for 45 years.

Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July last year, when he handed over power temporarily to his younger brother, Raul.

But the elder Castro has returned to public life since March by writing occasional articles, called "Reflections of the Commander in Chief." He has been writing more frequently in recent weeks, fueling speculation that his health is improving.

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