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The BBC's Helen Sawyer reports
"Another mass rally"
 real 28k

The BBC's Ian Haddow
"The expulsion is an indication of how seriously the US is taking these allegations"
 real 28k

Sunday, 20 February, 2000, 02:01 GMT
Cuba defies US expulsion order

Mariano Faget, 54 Mariano Faget, 54 - arrested in Miami on Thursday


Cuba says it will not withdraw a diplomat expelled by the US in connection with an alleged Cuban spy arrested earlier this week, whatever the consequences.

The Washington-based envoy, who has not been named, was given seven days to leave the country by US authorities on Saturday.


Never in 22 years has the Cuban Interests Section in Washington carried out intelligence activities in the United States
Cuban Government statement
But a government statement read out at a televised rally attended by President Fidel Castro in eastern Cuba condemned the action as a "desperate and spectacular manoeuvre".

"The Cuban government will not withdraw any officer" from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, the statement said.

Instead, the diplomat would be told to remain in the US to defend himself from "this accusation, whatever the consequences may be".

Elian tactic

The statement accused Washington of seeking to "prevent at all costs the return of the kidnapped boy (Elian)" to Cuba.

Elain protester Protesters outside the White House demanded Elian be returned to Cuba
Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez has been at the heart of a bitter custody dispute since his rescue from a shipwreck off the coast of Florida in November.

Elian's Cuban father wants him to be returned but his Miami relatives, who currently have custody of the boy, are demanding that he should remain in their care.

More than 100 people gathered outside the White House in Washington on Saturday to demand that Elian be returned to his father in Cuba.

Spy charges

State Department spokesman James Foley said the diplomat was being expelled for activities "incompatible with his diplomatic status", a phrase usually used to describe espionage.

Castro Fidel Castro's government denies that Mr Faget spied for Cuba
Mr Foley said the State Department had acted in response to evidence presented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The expulsion is being linked to the arrest on Thursday of Cuban-born Mariano Faget, 54, a senior US immigration official, who was later charged in a Miami court with spying for the Cuban Government.

The FBI says Mr Faget, who worked for the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service for 34 years, passed classified information to Cuban agents, including staff at the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington.

He allegedly relayed information that could compromise American national defence.

Mr Faget faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of espionage. The FBI has not ruled out further arrests.

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See also:
19 Feb 00 |  Americas
US expels Cuban diplomat
18 Feb 00 |  Americas
Cuba spy charge for US official
20 Oct 98 |  Americas
Castro admits US espionage
15 Sep 98 |  Americas
Cubans 'tried to infiltrate US military'

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