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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 10:37 GMT
US withdraws relief offer to Cuba
A boy walks in a flooded street in Havana, Cuba
Hurricane Wilma destroyed hundreds of homes in Cuba
The US state department has withdrawn an offer to send disaster relief experts to Cuba.

Washington made the offer after Hurricane Wilma hit the island last month and, at the time, described Havana's acceptance as historic.

But Cuban President Fidel Castro made clear that the three-member team would not be assessing the recovery effort.

Instead, they would be invited to talks about the co-ordination of disaster response efforts across the Caribbean.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said that would turn a humanitarian mission into a political one.

However, the United States will still make a donation to charitable organisations working in Cuba, he added.

Embargo

Hurricane Wilma destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands of Cubans without power or running water.

Although 600,000 people were moved away from at-risk areas ahead of the hurricane, Wilma's ferocity took many by surprise.

Cuba and the US have not had diplomatic ties since Mr Castro took power in 1959. Washington has maintained a strict economic embargo in response to Cuba's communist policies.

The United States recently rejected Havana's offer of medical help after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August.

And, in July, Cuba thanked but turned down US offers of help following Hurricane Dennis.


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