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Cuba review completed, says Obama

KINGSTON, Jamaica — United States President Barack Obama said Thursday that the State Department had completed its review of whether to remove Cuba from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism, but he added that he had not yet received a final recommendation and was not ready to announce a decision.

“Our emphasis has been on the facts,” Obama said of considering Cuba’s removal from the State Department’s terrorism list, where it has remained for more than 30 years.

Removing it would clear a major obstacle to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, as the two former political enemies advance toward their closest ties in half a century.

The review was ordered by Obama in December, when he and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed to restore diplomatic ties and move toward normal relations. The State Department looked at whether Cuba had engaged in terrorism activity in the last six months — the criteria for designating a country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Speaking after a meeting here with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of Jamaica, Mr. Obama said that the State Department’s determination was now going through an interagency review that has not yet been finished.

The timing left open the possibility that he could announce a final decision at the Summit of the Americas opening in Panama on Friday, where he hopes to highlight momentum toward the diplomatic opening with Cuba. At the summit, any face-to-face interactions Obama has with Castro — the first since the president announced the policy shift — will be scrutinized for their symbolic significance.

“There’s a process involved,” Obama said. “I won’t make a formal announcement today about what those recommendations are until I receive them.”

(File photo)

(File photo)

Obama was attending a gathering of Caribbean leaders here on his way to the summit in Panama. It will be Castro’s first time attending the Summit of the Americas, from which his country had been barred because of Cuba’s 1962 expulsion from the Organization of American States at the United States’ behest. American officials have not ruled out the possibility of a one-on-one meeting between Obama and Castro.

Cuba’s removal from the list would allow Obama and Castro to enter the summit with a significant sign of progress to show for the months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between their governments that have followed the December announcement. It would also mark a crucial milestone in Mr. Obama’s effort to turn the page on a Cold War-era grudge. (New York Times)

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