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Cuba criticises US for expelling 15 diplomats over mystery health attacks

Cuba's foreign minister has said Washington's response to mysterious attacks on its diplomats was "reckless" and "hasty".

Bruno Rodriguez spoke on Tuesday after the US government expelled 15 of Cuba's diplomats to protest against its failure to protect Americans from the unexplained attacks.

He said at a press conference in Havana that his government fulfils all its obligations toward foreign envoys.

On Friday, Washington issued a travel warning for the island and said it was reducing by about 60% its diplomatic staffing at the US embassy in Havana.

The scope of the attacks has continued to grow and the US disclosed on Tuesday that the 22nd victim was confirmed the day before.

In recent weeks the US state department had said there were 21 individuals "medically confirmed" to be affected by attacks that harmed their hearing, cognition, balance and vision, some with diagnoses as serious as brain injury.

"The ministry of foreign affairs strongly protests and condemns this unfounded and unacceptable decision as well as the pretext used to justify it," Mr Rodriguez said.

He did not announce any retaliatory measures.

Cuba has said it allowed US investigative agencies to work on the ground in its country for the first time in more than 50 years as part of the investigation into the attacks on American diplomats.

The foreign affairs ministry was detailing its efforts to help in a lengthy statement responding to the Trump administration's decision to expel the 15 Cuban diplomats.

The ministry said US "specialised agencies" visited Havana three times, in June, August and September. The US has said the FBI is leading the investigation.

Cuba said during the second and third visits, it let the US import special equipment and granted access to all facilities.

It also said new, faster communications channels have been opened between the US embassy in Havana and Cuba's diplomatic security department.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson had earlier said that kicking out 15 Cuban diplomats would "ensure equity".

He said the decision was made "due to Cuba's failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats".

The unexplained attacks in Havana have allegedly harmed at least 22 American government workers and their family members.

Mr Tillerson said the US is maintaining diplomatic relations and will co-operate with Cuba while the investigation continues.

But he said the move to reduce staffing at the Havana embassy was needed to "minimise the number of diplomats at risk of exposure to harm".

Washington has given Cuba a list of 15 of its diplomats who must leave the US within seven days although they are not being declared "persona non grata".

That designation would prevent them from ever returning.

AP

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