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The BBC's Rob Watson in Maryland
"US authorities are adamant the boy should reunite with his father"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK
Psychiatrists meet Elian's relatives
Medical team
The eminent trio were left waiting for nearly four hours
The Miami relatives taking care of Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez met government-appointed mental health experts on Monday, after keeping them waiting for several hours.

The family was ordered to attend the talks to plan for the custody transfer of six-year-old Elian to his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Mr Gonzalez has travelled from Cuba for the reunion.

This is by no means a stall tactic

Lawyer for the Miami relatives
Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, kept the team of two child psychiatrists and a psychologist waiting at the agreed venue all afternoon.

He then requested that the meeting be moved to another hospital which is treating his daughter, Marisleysis, for exhaustion. She has been caring for the boy.

We're bending over backwards to accommodate them, so we can get a co-operative agreement

Immigration spokeswoman
The experts accepted and the meeting finally went ahead, lasting only an hour. No details have emerged.

"This is by no means a stall tactic," said family lawyer Roger Bernstein, explaining that his client did not feel "comfortable" leaving his daughter.

"It was a legitimate health concern that we informed the government about yesterday."

Time running out

But Maria Cardona, spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) warned the family there could be no more delay.

She said the INS was fully entitled to force the family to relinquish the boy, even without a court order.

"We're bending over backwards to accommodate them, so we can get a co-operative agreement."

Juan Miguel Gonzalez
Juan Miguel Gonzalez in Washington
The government experts will now advise the INS on the best way of reuniting father and son after four and a half months apart.

US authorities then expect to despatch a letter to the family dictating the terms and timing of the handover. "Our goal is to do it this week," Ms Cardona said.

But lawyers for the family continued efforts on Monday to thwart attempts to send Elian back to Cuba.

They filed an appeal challenging the attorney-general's decision to reject Elian's right to asylum.

And in a letter to President Bill Clinton, made public on Monday, they asked him to intervene to prevent Mr Gonzalez whisking his son back to Cuba once he got custody.


The custody battle over Elian has grown increasingly bitter since he was found floating off the US coast last November.

His mother and 10 others drowned as they attempted to cross illegally from Cuba to Florida.

Miami protest
The Miami protests continued
His Miami relatives, who took him in, have been fighting to keep him in the US - with vociferous support from the anti-Castro Cuban community in Florida.

Cuban exiles are holding a day-and-night vigil around the family's home in Miami's Little Havana district to try to prevent Elian being taken away.

The family want the boy's father to go to their home - something he says he will not do.

He arrived in the US last week and is staying near Washington DC.

Deputy US Attorney General Eric Holder said he hoped the Miami relatives would agree to hand Elian over at a neutral site.

"We would hope that we would be able to set up something so that Elian will not have to be carried through a throng of people in Miami that have been around the house," Mr Holder said.

"I hope that everybody will keep in mind the well-being of this young boy and not subject him unnecessarily to anything like that," he said.

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See also:

09 Apr 00 | Americas
Miami divided over Elian
07 Apr 00 | Americas
Psychologists target Elian
04 Apr 00 | Americas
High emotion in Havana and Miami
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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