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The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Washington
"Elian's father arrived by private jet from Cuba"
 real 28k

The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Miami
"The feeling is that Elian must stay"
 real 28k

Miguel Gonzalez, Father of Elian
"I have come to embrace my son for the first time in six months"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Elian's father in US to claim son
with child
Juan Miguel Gonzalez arrives with his other son Hianny
The father of Elian Gonzalez, the shipwrecked six-year-old Cuban boy, has arrived in Washington saying he wants to be reunited with his son "as soon as possible" to take him back to Cuba.

"I am confident that US authorities will not allow my child to continue to be hurt," Juan Miguel Gonzalez said in a speech on the tarmac at Dulles International Airport.


"I hope they (the American authorities) will hand him over to me as soon as possible and I would like to return with him to Cuba immediately"

Juan Miguel Gonzalez
Mr Gonzalez flew into Washington from Havana abroad a private jet with the aim of taking charge of the boy until the end of an international custody battle in the US courts.

Elian's relatives in Miami, who have looked after him since he was plucked from the sea off the Florida coast in November, say he should remain with them.

The boy's mother died along with 10 other people when the boat carrying them from Cuba to Florida capsized.

Speech

Speaking at the airport, Mr Gonzalez asked the US authorities to allow other relatives, psychiatrists and friends of Elian to travel to the United States to keep him company.

He said the international custody battle over his son had been "an agonising experience" and he criticised the American justice system for taking so long to resolve the case.

Mr Gonzalez said Elian had been submitted to "cruel psychological pressures" by the Cuban community in Miami.
Elian Gonzalez
Elian has not been seen in public since Wednesday
He accused them of trying to make political capital out of his son.

"I hope they (the American authorities) will hand him over to me as soon as possible and I would like to return with him to Cuba immediately," said Mr Gonzalez.

"But they have told me that I might have to wait two more months to return (with Elian)," he said.

In an earlier interview, the father's attorney Greg Craig noted that Mr Gonzalez "has said that he's prepared to stay here as long as it's required ... but he wants to have custody of Elian during this time."

Reuniting Elian with his father is not only a matter of federal law. It is not a matter of immigration law. It is simply the right thing to do

US Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

However, Elian has not been seen in public since Wednesday, when he was taken to a secret location by his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez.

Following the speech, Cuba's top diplomat in the United States waived diplomatic immunity for his residence, where Mr Gonzalez will be staying while the custody question is decided.

The move puts the home in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, under jurisdiction of US law.

The US Justice Department has said it expects father and son to be reunited "in the coming days".

"I believe that reuniting Elian with his father is not only a matter of federal law. It is not a matter of immigration law. It is simply the right thing to do," said Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

Victory

On Wednesday, the Cuban President, Fidel Castro, said in a four-hour televised speech that he expected father and son to be re-united within days.
fidel
The Cuban president, Fidel Castro, has claimed victory
"The battle of Elian has been won - in judicial terms, in legal terms, in political terms," Mr Castro said.

However, hundreds of Cuban-American demonstrators gathered outside Elian's relatives' house in Miami to try to prevent US Government agents from taking the boy away.

Talks between immigration officials and Elian's Miami relatives are due to resume on Thursday.

The relatives are expected to tell immigration officials that they want written guarantees that Juan Miguel will remain in America with Elian until all legal proceedings have been exhausted.

A custody appeal is due to start in Atlanta on 11 May.

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See also:

06 Apr 00 | Americas
Castro claims 'victory'
04 Apr 00 | Americas
High emotion in Havana and Miami
05 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: The battle for Elian
27 Mar 00 | Americas
Elian thinks his mother is alive
03 Feb 00 | Americas
Elian: View from Cuba
29 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The Dalai Lama of Little Havana
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