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Last Updated: Friday, 7 November, 2003, 12:04 GMT
US senators vote to lift Cuba ban
A US delegation explores Havana to look for tourist destinations
Cuba is keen to attract American tourists
A US Senate committee has voted in favour of ending a 40-year-old ban on Americans travelling to Cuba.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-5 to end the travel restrictions, which President John F Kennedy introduced in 1963.

In a similar move, the full Senate last month voted to bar the use of government money to enforce the ban.

The proposed law is likely to go to a final vote next year, but the White House has threatened to veto the bill.

The Bush administration says travel restrictions are a way of denying economic resources to what it calls the "brutal regime" of Fidel Castro.

The proposed bill would withhold funds to enforce the travel ban, effectively ending the restrictions.

War restrictions

Senators in favour of lifting the ban argue that it makes no sense to ban Americans from visiting Cuba while they are allowed to go to countries like North Korea.

The bill is being sponsored by a group led Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

Under the bill, travel restrictions could still be imposed if the US and Cuba were at war, or if there was an imminent health threat to US travellers.

The US Treasury Department estimated that about 160,000 Americans visited Cuba legally last year, half of them Cuban-Americans who are allowed to make one visit a year.

Diplomats, politicians, journalists and academics are allowed to visit Cuba without restrictions, but thousands of Americans made illegal visits through third countries.

Cuba has said it expects about a million Americans to visit in the first year if the ban is lifted.

The Cuban Government is keen to attract American tourism, hoping to boost hard currency earnings to pay for food imports.

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