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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 06:19 GMT
US sets new Elian deadline
Elian and Marisleysis Gonzalez
Elian's Miami relatives strongly oppose his return to Cuba
US immigration authorities have set a new deadline for the Miami relatives of Cuban shipwreck boy Elian Gonzalez to launch any appeal against a decision to return him to Cuba.

The relatives have been told they have until Monday lunchtime to agree to a speedy appeals process - or the boy will be sent back to Cuba.

The boy's Miami relatives - who want him to stay in the US - had originally been told to agree to an appeal by Friday lunchtime.



Our goal is to reunite Elian with his father in a fair, prompt and orderly manner

Attorney-General Janet Reno

Now their lawyers will have to submit the appeal by 3 April, if the relatives agree by Monday to go ahead with the process.

If they do not agree to the new deadline, the US authorities will begin the process of returning Elian to his father in Cuba next Thursday.

US Attorney-General Janet Reno confirmed the new deadline and repeated that "our goal is to reunite Elian with his father in a fair, prompt and orderly manner."

So far, the boy's Miami relatives have not responded to the government's new deadline.

Arbitration

Earlier on Friday, lawyers for the 6-year-old boy's Miami relatives had proposed the appointment of an independent arbitrator to determine if sending Elian back to Cuba or allowing him to stay in the US would be better for the child.


Demonstration in Havana
Cubans have been demonstrating for Elian's return
But Doris Meissner, commissioner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, rejected the idea.

"This is not an option that we are prepared to entertain," she said.

"In determining that Elian's father can speak for him in immigration matters, I made a decision that was lawful and within my administrative discretion."

The boy's father - and the Cuban authorities - want him back.

Round-table

In Cuba, journalists and other observers criticised the arbitration offer, saying it was another attempt to draw out the boy's US stay.

During a live round-table programme broadcast by Cuban state television, panel members also said they were disappointed the boy's time in the United States could now be extended for at least three more weeks.


Lazaro and Elian Gonzalez
Elian has been staying with his great-uncle Lazaro
Elian was found clinging to wreckage off the Miami coast in November after surviving a shipwreck in which his mother drowned.

Elian's mother and 10 other would-be emigres died during an illegal attempt to gain entry to the US.

Elian has been staying with his great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez's family in Miami since he was rescued.

The family in Miami argues that Elian would face immediate psychological and physical harm if repatriated.

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See also:

22 Mar 00 | Americas
Father ready to take Elian home
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
11 Dec 99 | Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
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