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US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
"This is not a political football"
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Malcolm Brabant reports for BBC News
"Madelaine Albright seemed to suggest that Fidel Castro could bring this matter to a swift conclusion"
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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 00:10 GMT
US hits back over shipwreck boy

It has been a high-profile campaign

US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has urged Cuba's Fidel Castro to stop using six-year-old shipwreck survivor, Elian Gonzales, as a political football.

During an interview on American television, Mrs Albright gave a clear hint that if Elian's father agrees to meet US immigration officials in Havana, the boy will be returned to him.

This is a little boy and not a political football
Madeleine Albright
Elian is currently staying with relatives in Miami who are trying to persuade the Clinton administration to let him remain permanently in the United States.

Fidel Castro has orchestrated huge demonstrations on the streets of Havana, demanding Elian's return.

The boy apparently survived three days clinging to an inner tube, after a boat carrying more than a dozen refugees from Cuba to Florida capsized and sank.

His mother and stepfather were among those who drowned.

The legal case

Most American legal experts agree that the Clinton administration is obliged to return Elian to his natural father in Havana.

Officials of the US immigration service, the INS, have gone to Cuba to try to establish paternity. But Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzales, has said he won't see them unless they can guarantee that his son will be returned.

Elian Gonzalez Elian Gonzalez survived three days clinging to an inner tube
Mrs Albright told "Face the Nation" that this impasse was delaying proceedings.

"We have sought, or the INS has sought, to interview the boy's father, and there has been no response from Cuba on that. And I think that what we have to do is follow through the legal parts of this and that is what we're doing."

It is widely thought that the Cuban Government is telling the father what to do and, giving the clearest hint possible, Mrs Albright inferred that Fidel Castro should allow the father to meet the immigration officials.

"The main thing that I have is just a general message is to remember that this is a little boy and not a political football."

Miami's Cubans want Elian to stay

The BBC's Correspondent in Miami, Malcolm Brabant, says if Elian is returned to Havana, South Florida's million-strong Cuban exile community will be outraged.

A poll among Cuban expatriates, published in the Miami Herald, shows that eight per cent want him to stay.

As for Elian himself, he is making a day trip to the altar of American commercialism - Walt Disney World.

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See also:
13 Dec 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Shipwrecked Cuban boy stirs mixed emotions
09 Dec 99 |  Americas
Thousands demand Cuban boy's return
11 Dec 99 |  Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
08 Dec 99 |  Americas
Cuba-US row deepens
07 Dec 99 |  Americas
In pictures: Shipwreck boy sparks protests
09 Dec 99 |  Americas
US seeks Elian paternity proof

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