September 16, 2015 / 3:13 PM / 2 years ago

Cuba's Raul Castro to address U.N. on Sept. 28

HAVANA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Cuba’s President Raul Castro will address the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 28, Havana confirmed on Wednesday, but there was no mention of another possible meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

On a first visit to the United Nations as head of state, the 84-year-old leader will listen to an address by Pope Francis on Sept. 25 before addressing a development summit then giving his speech to the general assembly, Cuba’s foreign minister said.

“He will hold numerous bilateral meetings with other heads of state and government, and will also hold meetings with various sectors of U.S. society including personalities and representatives of solidarity and Cuban immigration,” Bruno Rodriguez told a news conference in Havana.

Obama, who has spearheaded a U.S. diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba, is also due to speak to the U.N. gathering on Sept. 28 in New York.

Castro, who took over for his ailing brother Fidel provisionally in 2006 and definitively in 2008, has made only one known visit to the United States, briefly visiting Houston shortly after the 1959 revolution.

Castro and Obama stunned the world last Dec. 17 by announcing detente following more than half a century of Cold War animosity between the two countries separated by 90 miles (145 km) of sea. That led to the restoration of diplomatic relations on July 20 after a 54-year break.

The pair also made further history by meeting at a regional summit in Panama in April.

Foreign minister Rodriguez reiterated Cuba’s demand for U.S. economic sanctions to be lifted unilaterally as a prerequisite for further normalization of relations.

“Cuba appreciates and recognizes U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposals towards lifting the blockade,” Rodriguez said, estimating the total damage to the Caribbean island had been $121 billion, “an exorbitant figure for a small economy.” (Reporting by Diego Ore, Daniel Trotta and Nelson Acosta; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Marc Frank and David Gregorio)

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