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Tuesday, 24 March, 1998, 17:10 GMT
Washington's plea on Cuba
The Pope in Cuba: his request for release of dissidents was met by the authorities in Havana
The Pope in Cuba: his request for release of dissidents was met by the authorities in Havana
The American secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, has presented Vatican officials with a list of Cuban political prisoners and asked them to press President Fidel Castro to release them.

About 300 prisoners, including some dissidents, were freed after Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba in January.

He had submitted a list of people and demanded their release while publicly criticising the Cuban government's human rights record.

Mrs Albright's request for further pressure to be brought to bear on Havana came during her talks at the Vatican with a senior church official, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Pope and Castro: formed a working relationship
Pope and Castro: formed a working relationship
US officials say Mrs Albright referred in particular to four well-known Cuban political prisoners that Washington would like to see released.

They are said to be Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne, Martha Beatrix Roque and Rene Gomez Manzano, leaders of the Internal Dissidence Working Group.

The US secretary of state also raised concern that of 100 political prisoners that were released at the Pope's request, some 20 were forced into exile.

Last week, the Clinton administration announced it was easing American sanctions against Cuba.

This included the resumption of direct humanitarian charter flights between the two countries, and the lifting of restrictions on the sale of medical supplies.

Asylum request

Nine Cuban defectors, including four national baseball players and their coach, have appealed to a number of countries to grant them asylum.

An American sports agent, Joe Cubas, said the group had made the applications, but refused to give any details for fear of jeopardising their claims.

The nine are currently in a detention centre in the Bahamas, after being rescued at sea. The Bahamian authorities are planning to repatriate them.

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