May 30, 2015 07:53
The United States on Friday dropped Cuba from a blacklist designating the communist country as a state sponsor of terrorism in another step toward the resumption of diplomatic links between the two nations after a five-decade standoff.
Shortly after meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro in April, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list as the two countries head toward opening diplomatic missions in Washington and Havana.
The U.S. Congress had a 45-day window to object, but did not.
Still, the White House said there is no timetable for establishing the embassies in the two countries. White House spokesman Josh Earnest "there continue to be issues that need to be worked out."
Cuba is balking at U.S. demands for democracy programs and that American diplomats be allowed to travel throughout the country and meet freely with dissidents.
With that review period ending Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry formally removed Cuba from the list.
The U.S. said it still has "significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions."
The State Department, however, said the U.S. island neighbor had not supported international terrorism in the last six months and had assured the United States that it wouldn't do so in the future -- the criteria for removing Cuba from the list.
Its removal could give Cuba more access to global financial markets and loans from organizations such as the World Bank.
U.S. and Cuban diplomats have been holding discussions about improving trade, educational and travel ties between the two countries.
The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations after Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959 at the height of the Cold War, but late last year, the two countries announced a thaw in their icy relations.
One likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, attacked Friday's concession to Cuba.
"Today's news is further evidence that President Obama seems more interested in capitulating to our adversaries than in confronting them," Bush said. "Iran's leaders are surely taking note."
The leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, said Obama "has handed the Castro regime a significant political win in return for nothing."
Three countries remain on the State Department list as state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Sudan and Syria.
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