HAVANA Nov 26 Cuban President Raul Castro is
open to meeting U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on neutral
ground to try to resolve the island's four-decade-old feud with
Washington, according to an interview with a U.S. magazine.
The interview for The Nation was conducted by U.S. actor
Sean Penn, who traveled to Havana after meeting Cuban ally
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and before Obama won the U.S.
presidential election on Nov. 4.
"You asked if I would accept to meet with (Obama) in
Washington. I would have to think about it. I would discuss it
with all my comrades in the leadership," Castro tells Penn in
the interview for a Dec. 15 issue published on its website.
"Personally, I think it would not be fair that I be the
first to visit, because it is always the Latin American
presidents who go to the United States first. But it would also
be unfair to expect the president of the United States to come
to Cuba. We should meet in a neutral place."
Obama has said he will reverse the Bush administration's
policies that restricted Cuban Americans visiting Cuba and
sending cash to their families there. He is willing to talk to
Castro but would keep the 46-year-old trade embargo as leverage
to influence democratic changes in the one-party state.
"Perhaps we could meet at Guantanamo," Castro says,
referring to the bay where the U.S. maintains a naval base,
which Cuba considers a violation of its sovereignty.
"We must meet and begin to solve our problems, and at the
end of the meeting, we could give the president a gift ... we
could send him home with the American flag that waves over
(Reporting by Patrick Markey, editing by Anthony Boadle)