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U.S., Cuba tangle at U.N. over alleged plane bomber

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Cuba and Venezuela clashed with the United States in the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday over the release this month by a U.S. judge of an anti-Castro militant wanted for bomb attacks against Cuba.

A sign showing images of President Bush (L) and Luis Posada Carriles and the headline reading "Guilty, the U.S. government harbours terrorism" is displayed in front of people holding photographs of victims of the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner during a vigil outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana April 20, 2007. Cuba and Venezuela clashed with the United States in the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday over the release this month by a U.S. judge of Carriles, an anti-Castro militant wanted for bomb attacks against Cuba. REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Cuban charge d’affaires Ileana Nunez Mordoche accused Washington of a bid to conceal details of Luis Posada Carriles’ CIA past by permitting his May 8 release after the judge in El Paso, Texas, dismissed immigration fraud charges against him.

Posada Carriles, who was taken into U.S. custody in May 2005 after he entered the country illegally, is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela, where he is accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

The Cuban denounced Washington’s “complicity and absolute responsibility” for the release, aimed, she said, at stopping Posada Carriles revealing his “terrorist actions” against Cuba and Venezuela as an ex-Central Intelligence Agency operative.

Nunez Mordoche accused the United States of double standards on terrorism. “It is impossible to eliminate terrorism if some terrorist acts are condemned while others are silenced, tolerated or justified,” she said.

She urged the Security Council to “take all the necessary steps” but did not elaborate.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad replied that the decision to free Posada Carriles had been made by an independent judiciary. “The United States is currently reviewing that decision and its options for challenging it,” he said.

He said the immigration judge who originally considered Posada Carriles’s case had barred his deportation to Cuba or Venezuela. But he said Washington would be prepared to send him to another country with terrorism-related charges against him.

Venezuela’s envoy also accused Washington of “protection of a terrorist” and violating a 1922 extradition treaty with his country. He said Khalilzad’s statement “makes a mockery” of the Security Council.

Trained by the CIA for its failed Bay of Pigs invasion to oust Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1961, Posada Carriles was jailed in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner, but escaped in 1985.

Venezuela, Cuba’s leftist ally, requested his extradition from the United States in 2005, but got no response.

Tuesday’s Security Council meeting was to hear briefings from council committees on counter-terrorism, and as such was open to any U.N. member, not just the 15 council members.

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