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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 18:41 GMT
Elian battle on Capitol Hill

Elian's grandmothers Elian's grandmothers: Fighting in Washington

Both sides in the Elian Gonzalez custody battle between US and Cuban relatives of the shipwrecked boy are in Washington lobbying politicians.

The six-year-old's Miami relatives, who have temporary custody, are pressing for a law to be passed that would either give Elian US citizenship or residency.

His Cuban grandmothers, Raquel Rodriguez and Mariela Quintana, are trying to persuade lawmakers to abandon the plan.

We cannot forget what is at stake here is a six-year-old boy
Janet Reno
Attorney General
So far, the US administration is backing a decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that Elian should be reunited with his father in Cuba.

And Attorney General Janet Reno said on Thursday that if the roles were reversed and a foreign country refused to return an American child then the "people of the United States would not be very happy".

Earlier, she said: "My hope is that people of good will who love the little boy can come together and reach some conclusion.

"We cannot forget what is at stake here is a six-year-old boy. He should not get caught up in other issues that do not have a direct bearing upon his life."

Republican politicians are trying to push through the law to grant Elian residency or citizenship - a move that would take the case out of the jurisdiction of the INS, which has said he should be returned to his father in Cuba.

First meeting

Elian has been at the centre of an international custody battle since he was plucked from the sea after a boat smuggling his mother and stepfather into the US sank last November.

At a reunion ordered by the INS, Elian's grandmothers, Raquel Rodriguez and Mariela Quintana, were said to be elated.

Marisleysis Gonzalez Marisleysis Gonzalez: Leading the fight for Elian's Miami relatives
The two grandmothers hugged and kissed Elian as he walked into the living room of two nuns - the agreed "neutral ground" for the meeting.

They also showed him photos of his school friends and played games with the boy during the two-hour meeting.

But Elian, who has become a media star in the US, was said to be initially shy at seeing his grandparents.

Afterwards he was heard on a Spanish-language radio station saying he was about to be made a US citizen.

And one of the nuns who hosted the reunion, Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, said she now believed Elian should be allowed to stay in the US.

The battle is also being fought in Miami federal court where the INS has filed papers responding to a court challenge against the organisation's decision that Elian should be sent home.

In Cuba, where there have been a series of demonstrations demanding the boy's return, another is planned for Friday - the anniversary of the birth of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti.

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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba denounces Miami 'lies and humiliation'
27 Jan 00 |  Americas
Elian reunited with grandmothers
20 Jan 00 |  Americas
Clinton enters row over Cuba boy
16 Jan 00 |  Americas
Analysis: Politics cloud Elian case
19 Jan 00 |  Americas
Elian relatives seek court ruling
17 Jan 00 |  Americas
Cuba attacks Elian 'kidnapping'
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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