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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"A hero's welcome"
 real 28k

Friday, 3 March, 2000, 03:10 GMT
Spy row Cuban back home
Imperatori and Castro
President Castro (right) gave the diplomat a hero's welcome
A Cuban diplomat at the centre of spying row with the US is back in Cuba after being escorted out of Canada.

Jose Imperatori, who had taken refuge in the Cuban embassy in Ottawa, was welcomed in Havana by President Fidel Castro.

Mr Castro, and Mr Imperatori's parents, hugged the diplomat as he stepped off the plane.

"I am happy to be back in the fatherland to continue fighting until the truth wins," Mr Imperatori said.

The US deported Mr Imperatori, the former vice consul of Cuba's Interests Section in Washington, almost a week ago on spying charges.

He arrived in Canada last Saturday on a 48-hour transit visa.

But he overstayed his visa, and the Canadian authorities demanded Havana recall him immediately.

Fidel Castro
Castro denies allegations of spying by Cubans
Mr Imperatori had started a hunger strike in the embassy to protest his innocence and wanted to return to the US to clear his name.

Tensions rise

The five-day stand-off between Cuba and Canada has soured relations already-cooling ties between the two countries.

Canada has traditionally sought a policy of constructive engagement with Havana.

Cuba said earlier it would not withdraw the diplomat.

President Fidel Castro had condemned the expulsion as a "desperate and spectacular manoeuvre."

The expulsion has been linked to the recent arrest of Cuban-born Mariano Faget, a senior US immigration officer.

The FBI says Mr Faget passed classified information to Cuban agents, including staff at the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington.

Already strained relations between the US and Cuba have been at fever pitch over the last few months over six-year old Elian Gonzalez.

The boy has been at the centre of a bitter custody row since his rescue from a shipwreck off the Florida coast in November.

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See also:

28 Feb 00 |  Americas
Cuban fury at diplomat expulsion
20 Feb 00 |  Americas
Cuba defies US expulsion order
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