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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK

World: Americas

US move to ease Cuban sanctions

The move comes as Cuba's sugar industry begins to recover

A bill which would ease sanctions against Cuba has been introduced in the United States Congress by a cross-party group of senators.

The new bill would allow the export of medicine and food to Cuba, without affecting the other provisions of the 37-year-old embargo.

Its introduction comes a day after the Americans lifted a ban on sales of medicine and food to Iran, Libya and Sudan.

"Passage of this humanitarian legislation will directly help to alleviate the suffering of the Cuban people," said Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat.

Boost for agriculture

Easing the embargo also could help cash-strapped US farmers, hurt by slumping commodity prices and growing international competition, congressional sponsors said.

According to some industry estimates, Cuba represents a market of about one million metric tons of wheat per year.

Correspondents say the proximity of Cuba would make it an ideal market for American exports, but that such a proposal is likely to run into stiff opposition from conservative groups and Cuban exiles.

Similar initiatives to ease trade restrictions on Cuba have failed in recent years because of the powerful anti-Cuba bloc in the US Congress.

Washington imposed full economic sanctions against Cuba in 1962, three years after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

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