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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 02:02 GMT
Moves to solve shipwreck custody battle

attorney and great-uncle Elian's attorney (lefl) and great-uncle address the media

By Tom Gibb in Havana

There have been moves in both Washington and Havana to try to resolve the custody battle over a six year old Cuban boy who was shipwrecked off the Florida coast in November.

Both sides now appear to be showing some flexibility.

US officials in Washington have been saying privately that the case could be resolved much more quickly if six-year old Elian Gonzalez' father was to travel to the United States to pick the boy up.

Elian is currently with relatives in Miami who want to keep him there.

Elian Gonzalez Elian's American education has started
He was rescued by Florida fishermen in November after his mother drowned trying to reach the United States as an illegal immigrant.

Initially Elian's father said that he would be willing to go to Florida if he had to.

But that was later ruled out by Fidel Castro.

Now, however, the head of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, has said Elian's father is free to travel to the United States if he wants to - but he warns there should first be guarantees that Elian would be handed over immediately.

A US immigration hearing is set for 21 January but officials say a decision could be made much more quickly which would allow the father to pick up Elian.

First day of school

The question still remains what Cubans in Miami could do to stop that.

Elian has attended his first day at a US school.

He was taken to the private Lincoln Marti School in Miami's Little Havana district.

In Cuba, Elian's old schoolfriends continue to be at the centre of a massive government propaganda campaign demanding his return.

The government accuses Miami exiles of kidnapping and psychologically torturing Elian.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  Americas
Cuba resumes protests over shipwreck boy
24 Dec 99 |  Americas
Cuba attacks custody battle delay
13 Dec 99 |  Americas
Crucial talks over shipwreck boy
11 Dec 99 |  Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
05 Dec 99 |  Americas
Castro warns US over shipwreck boy
13 Dec 99 |  Americas
US hits back over shipwreck boy
07 Dec 99 |  Americas
In pictures: Shipwreck boy sparks protests

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