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Carter to meet Raul Castro in Cuba

Former US President Jimmy Carter is expected to visit Cuba next week to meet with President Raul Castro to discuss economic policies and ways to improve relations between the US and Cuba.

The former president and his wife Rosalynn will arrive in Havana on Monday and stay until Wednesday on a trip under the auspices of his Atlanta-based Carter Centre organisation, spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said. It is not an official US mission.

Mr Carter's visit comes days after a Cuban court sentenced US contractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state for bringing illegal satellite communications equipment into the country.

Mr Gross, 61, was arrested in December 2009 while working on a USAid-backed democracy-building project.

The US government and Mr Gross's family said he was working to improve internet access for the island's Jewish community and should be released immediately.

Cuba rejects these claims, saying Mr Gross was a "mercenary" working on a programme paid for by Washington that aimed to bring down Cuba's revolutionary system.

US officials say that no rapprochement is possible while Mr Gross remains jailed. Cuba, however, has presented Mr Gross as evidence of US intentions to unleash a "cyberwar" to destabilise the island.

There have been no diplomatic relations between the countries since the 1960s and the United States maintains economic and financial sanctions on the island.

Meanwhile, Raul Castro has named a new economy minister, and put the outgoing minister in charge of implementing economic reforms that will be hammered out at a Communist Party Congress.

An official statement read on Cuban television said Abel Izquierdo Rodriguez will replace Marino Murillo in the Economy and Planning post.


From Belfast Telegraph