October 12, 2017 / 6:38 PM / 2 years ago

Cuba could stop 'attacks' against Americans: White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff said on Thursday that Washington believes Havana could put a halt to the mysterious incidents that have sickened nearly two dozen American diplomats and some tourists in Cuba.

“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told reporters when asked about the situation at a White House briefing.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said later she thought Kelly was referring to the fact that the Vienna Conventions dealing with diplomatic relations between countries require the host nation to provide for the safety and security of diplomatic personnel.

Nauert told a briefing at the State Department that the investigation into the attacks was “still under way” and the department did not know “who or what is responsible for it.”

She also suggested the United States believes Cuba might know more than it has divulged about the incidents.

“In a small country like Cuba where the government is going to know a lot of things that take place within its borders, they may have more information than we are aware of right now,” she said.

The Trump administration last week expelled 15 Cuban diplomats to protest Havana’s failure to protect staff at the U.S. embassy in the communist country. Washington also has recalled more than half its diplomatic personnel from Cuba.

At least 22 U.S. diplomatic personnel have reported having health issues after being subjected to the apparent attacks. They have suffered hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, cognitive problems and other health issues.

The Associated Press obtained what it said on Thursday was an audio recording of the sound that Americans heard during the incidents in Cuba. The audio was of a high-pitched, electronic squeaking noise.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Makini Brice and David Alexander; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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