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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Castro hits back at US 'lies'
Cuban President Fidel Castro
Castro: Cuba "has nothing to hide"
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By Daniel Schweimler
BBC correspondent in Havana

The President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has responded angrily to accusations made earlier in the week by the United States that his country was trying to produce biological weapons and share its technological expertise with countries hostile to Washington.

US Under Secretary of State, John Bolton
John Bolton identified Cuba as part of America's 'axis of evil'

In an hour-and-a-half long speech, he said the comments made by the US Under Secretary of State, John Bolton, were full of lies and errors.

President Castro waited four days to respond to US criticisms.

His government has been criticised by Washington many times in the 43 years since he came to power and he almost seems to enjoy the bitter rivalry.

US 'lies'

Reading from a carefully prepared text, he said the US had no proof that Cuba was trying to produce biological weapons.

They do not have proof, he said, because it does not exist and it cannot exist.

President Castro added that he had been misquoted in the accusations made by the Mr Bolton.

The Americans, he said, seem to have no alternative but to lie, lie and lie.

Mr Bolton - the top State Department official dealing with weapons of mass destruction - said he believed that Cuba was trying to develop biological weapons and was passing its technical expertise to countries hostile to the US.

Carter visit

His comments put Cuba firmly on Washington's list of countries that make up what US President George Bush had defined as an "axis of evil".

Former US President Jimmy Carter
Carter: Due to visit Cuba in two days

He noted that the Cuban leader last year visited Iran, Libya and Syria.

President Castro responded by praising Iran and noting that Cuba does have a sophisticated biological medicine industry - exporting vaccines to more than 40 countries.

Cuba has nothing to hide, he added.

The speech will increase the bitterness in the long-running conflict between Washington and Havana which has intensified in recent months.

It does, however, come just two days before the visit to Cuba by the former US President, Jimmy Carter, whose aim of trying to improve relations between these two old enemies has not been made any easier.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"Jimmy Carter... will dine with Mr Castro"
See also:

06 May 02 | Americas
US expands 'axis of evil'
09 Apr 02 | Americas
Carter set for historic Cuba trip
09 May 02 | Americas
US and Cuba's complex relations
16 Dec 01 | Americas
US food arrives in Cuba
24 May 01 | Americas
Cuba blasts Bush over dissidents
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