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Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 17:25 GMT
Clinton enters row over Cuba boy

Thousands have demonstrated in Cuba for Elian's return


The US President, Bill Clinton, has criticised moves by Congress to grant US citizenship to the shipwrecked Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, in a bid to prevent his return to Cuba.

Mr Clinton said that he opposed the move because it would further politicise the case.



(Giving Elian US citizenship) would irrevocably lead people to the conclusion that this was much more about politics than whether that little boy ought to be taken away from his father
Bill Clinton

The Cuban Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, has said that there is a danger that attempts to repatriate Elian would fail if he was given US citizenship.

Six-year-old Elian was found floating on an inner tube after a shipwreck off Florida last November during an illegal attempt to reach the US in which his mother died.

The US immigration services have already ruled that Elian should be returned to Cuba, but his family in Miami are challenging this in court.

Some members of Congress have said they will press for special legislation granting Elian US citizenship.

'More about politics'

In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor published on Thursday, Mr Clinton said that giving Elian citizenship "would irrevocably lead people to the conclusion that this was much more about politics than whether that little boy ought to be taken away from his father.



I think the way he has attempted to politicise this is also terrible
Bill Clinton on Fidel Castro

"We need to think long and hard whether we're going to take the position that any person who comes to our shores who is a minor, any minor child who loses his or her parents, should never be sent home to another parent - even if that parent is capable of doing a very good job - if we don't like the government of the country where the people lived," he said.

Mr Clinton was also very critical of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

"I think the way he has attempted to politicise this is also terrible," the US president said.


Elian with his uncle in Miami
Fidel Castro has "blown every conceivable opportunity to get closer to the United States," he said.

For his part, the Cuban foreign minister simply said that repatriating Elian would be very difficult if congress had its way.

"There is a danger that after January 24 he will be made an American citizen by Congress, and after that, probably he would no longer be able to come back to Cuba," Mr Roque said.

The long-running dispute has complicated relations between the US and Cuba.

There have been almost daily demonstrations in the Cuban capital Havana calling for Elian's repatriation.

The Cuban community in Miami has been equally vociferous in demanding that the boy should stay in the US.

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See also:
19 Jan 00 |  Americas
Elian relatives seek court ruling
17 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba attacks Elian 'kidnapping'
16 Jan 00 |  Americas
Analysis: Politics cloud Elian case
12 Jan 00 |  Americas
Reno backs Cuban boy's return
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuban mothers demand boy's return
11 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba boy ruling under fire
14 Jan 00 |  Americas
Bizarre twist in custody battle

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