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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Six years old and at the centre of a ferocious legal battle"
 real 28k

The BBC's Ian Haddow reports from Miami
"The case shows the strength of Miami's Cuban community"
 real 28k

Friday, 31 March, 2000, 03:28 GMT 04:28 UK
US delays Elian deadline
Miami demonstration
Miami's Cubans are campaigning hard for Elian to stay
US immigration officials have again delayed moves to start repatriating six-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.

After nine hours of talks, lawyers representing his Miami relatives, who want to keep him in the US, said the deadline had been delayed until Tuesday, with more talks scheduled for Monday.

Elian has been living with his relatives in Miami since being shipwrecked off the Florida coast four months ago.

News of the reprieve came after US Vice-President Al Gore broke ranks with the Clinton administration to urge the US Congress to back legislation which would give residence to Elian and his close family members.

Al Gore
Gore broke ranks with the president
Gaining the support of Florida's large Cuban emigre community could prove crucial in Mr Gore's campaign for the US presidency.

Mr Gore's Republican opponent in the White House race, George W Bush, said the vice-president should try to persuade the administration to allow Florida's family courts to handle the matter instead of the federal immigration service.

"I would hope the vice-president would use his influence with the administration," said Mr Bush.

Visa application

Elian's father is seeking a visa to travel to the US to try to gain custody of his son and take him back to Cuba.

Proposed Havana delegation
National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon
Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his current wife
Elian's half-brother and cousin
12 classmates
Three teachers
Three psychologists, two child psychiatrists
Four doctors, two nurses
Gregory Craig, the US lawyer for Juan Miguel Gonzalez, said he was submitting applications for visas for the father and other family members in an attempt to resolve the four-month custody battle with Elian's Miami relatives.

"We have informed the appropriate authorities in the United States Government that Mr Gonzalez is willing to bring his family to the United States and to remain here during whatever time it takes to complete the appeals process. For that to happen, he must have assurances that he will have custody of Elian," Mr Craig said.

Cuban President Fidel Castro has said that Mr Gonzalez would travel with a large delegation, including Elian's schoolfriends, teachers, and medical personnel.

The Cuban Government said late on Thursday that the size of the entourage was not negotiable.

Everyone on the list is "indispensable for the reinsertion of the child in his family and social environment," a government statement said.

US officials declined to speculate on whether the group would be granted visas.

Elian and Lazaro Gonzalez
Elian's Uncle Lazaro wants the boy to stay in Miami
BBC Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds says the father is likely to get his visa, the rest of the support group less so.

The US Government has visions of a propaganda display.

INS officials repeated calls for calm as dozens of protesters practiced making a human chain outside the Miami home of Lazaro Gonzalez, the great uncle of Elian, who has cared for him since he was rescued off of Florida in November.

"We continue to urge the community to recognize the importance of the bond between parent and child, as well as the need to uphold the laws of the United States," said local INS director Robert Wallis.

The INS is still threatening to begin repatriation moves on Tuesday unless the six-year-old's great-uncle agrees to surrender the boy voluntarily if he loses a court battle to win political asylum for Elian.

Last week, a US judge dismissed the relatives' demand that Elian receive a political asylum hearing and upheld the INS's January ruling that the boy belongs with his father.

The relatives appealed against the ruling, and the hearing is scheduled to begin in May.

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See also:

31 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Estefan joins Cuban boy row
30 Mar 00 | Americas
Tensions high over Elian case
27 Mar 00 | Americas
Elian thinks his mother is alive
27 Mar 00 | Americas
Castro confident of Elian's return
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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