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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 04:07 GMT 05:07 UK
Castro confident of Elian's return
Havana demonstration
Cubans have regularly demonstrated for Elian's return
Cuban President Fidel Castro has told a rally in Havana that the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy at the centre of an international custody fight, have lost their battle to keep him in the United States.

Fidel Castro
Castro: Court verdict "moral and just"
Speaking to hundreds of students who had gathered to demand the return of the boy, President Castro said it was only a matter of time before Elian is returned to Cuba.

In a 90-minute speech, he said that according to "reliable sources in Miami", the child's relatives there had discussed moving the child to another location or even a third country to prevent his return to Cuba.

"They are beaten. They have legally and morally lost. They are politically destroyed. What are they going to do?" he said.

Legal deadline

Monday sees the deadline for lawyers acting for Elian's Miami relatives to agree to a speedy appeal process - or see the boy swiftly returned to his father.

A US court last week dismissed an appeal against the decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to return Elian to Cuba - a decision President Castro said was "just and moral".

He said the boy should be back in Cuba within three weeks.

If Elian's Miami relatives agree to the expedited appeal process by noon (1700GMT) on Monday, there will have a week to prepare and file their appeal.

One lawyer working for Elian's Miami relatives told the US television network ABC that the family would meet the deadline.

"We will comply with the deadline. We will get the best brief in possible for Elian Gonzalez," Linda Osberg-Braun said.

Interview

In an apparent attempt to increase American support for their battle to keep Elian in the United States, the Miami relatives last week allowed ABC television journalist Diane Sawyer to spend two days with the boy.


Elian
Elian's Miami relatives want him to stay there
The network will begin showing her reports on Monday.

President Castro said that showing such interviews with the child was "monstrous and sickening" and that sources had told him that the boy would denounce his father.

Elian was found clinging to wreckage off the Miami coast in November after surviving a shipwreck in which his mother drowned.

The boy'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:

25 Mar 00 | Americas
US sets new Elian deadline
22 Mar 00 | Americas
Father ready to take Elian home
03 Feb 00 | Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
11 Dec 99 | Americas
Asylum bid for shipwreck boy
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