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The BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports
"The US Justice Department began examining how it could send him back to his father in Cuba"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 15:59 GMT
Father ready to take Elian home
Cuba has given the father strong backing
The father of Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy at the centre of an international custody battle, is preparing to get his boy from the United States.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez
Juan Miguel Gonzalez: Fearful of hostile reception
Juan Miguel Gonzalez would come "within hours" when the US Government told him he could have custody of his son, according to Mr Gonzalez's lawyer Greg Craig.

His comments follow a US federal court's decision to deny Elian's Miami relatives a political asylum hearing for the boy.

Elian has been staying with his great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez in Miami since he was found clinging to an inner tube off the Florida coast.

He will come if the government of the United States tells him that he will be given custody of his son

Lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez
He was one of only three survivors of the shipwreck, which claimed his mother's life.

Mr Gonzalez, backed by the government in Havana, has been demanding Elian's return to Cuba since his rescue.

But he has been refusing to come to the United States to claim back his son, citing a hostile atmosphere created by the dispute.

Family 'optimistic'

Mr Craig told US TV: "He is not going to come here and sit in the hotel room and watch television coverage of his son being taken by someone else to Disneyland.

Elian Gonzalez: Lost mother in shipwreck tragedy
"He will come if the government of the United States tells him that he will be given custody of his son. That position he has taken from the very first.

"He'll be here within a matter of hours."

Elian's relatives, who argue the boy will have a better life in the US than in communist Cuba, have said they will appeal against the federal court's ruling.

A lawyer for the Miami relatives said the US family was "cautiously optimistic" they would win an appeal.

Roger Bernstein said irreparable psychological damage would be done to the child if he returned to Cuba.

He said: "It's unprecedented that a child would be returned whose mother has died while trying to bring him freedom and return him to the tyranny of Castro."

But Mr Craig predicted their chance of success in court was now virtually nil.

"What I would really like to happen would be for the relatives in Miami to reach out to the father and to make efforts to have this transfer occur in the most humane and prompt fashion.

"I would hope they would do that rather than put us through other court processes. That really puts politics ahead of family and political judgement ahead of parental values."

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Americas
Elian asylum case dismissed
03 Feb 00 | Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
20 Jan 00 | Americas
Clinton enters row over Cuba boy
24 Dec 99 | Americas
Cuba attacks custody battle delay
11 Dec 99 | Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
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