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U.N. Urges U.S. to End Cuba Embargo
Tue Nov 12,10:13 PM ET
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - For the 11th straight year, the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging the United States to end its four-decade trade embargo against Cuba.

The resolution, which is not binding, was approved by a vote of 173-3 with four abstentions a larger majority than last year when 167 nations voted to lift the embargo.

Only the United States, Israel and the Marshall Islands voted in favor of keeping the embargo, as they did last year.

Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly, in a speech before the vote, accused powerful Americans of Cuban descent of acting against what he called the "true interests" of the United States by insisting on the embargo.

Cuba has been under a U.S. trade embargo since Fidel Castro (news - web sites) defeated the CIA (news - web sites)-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Americans are barred from traveling to the Caribbean island nation except with special approval.

Creating a small opening in the trade embargo, Congress two years ago legalized sales of food to the communist island for the first time since 1961. Cuba started buying U.S. food this year and Alarcon said sales could reach $200 million.

Ambassador Sichan Siv, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, told the General Assembly that President Bush (news - web sites) has made clear he would only work to ease the embargo if Cuba takes "concrete" steps toward political and economic reforms.

"Unfortunately, the Cuban government shows no signs of abandoning its policies that deny the Cuban people their fundamental rights," Siv said.

The United States was "particularly disappointed" by the Cuban government's decision to ignore the Varela Project, which collected more than 11,000 signatures for a referendum that would ask voters if they favor greater freedom of speech and private business ownership, Siv said.

In appealing for a "no" vote on the resolution, Siv denied that the embargo was the cause of Cuba's economic problems, saying Cuba imports some one billion dollars worth of goods every year from many different countries.

"The focus of the international community ... should be on the continuing human rights crisis in Cuba rather than on the bilateral United States efforts to encourage a peaceful transition to democracy," he said.

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