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The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"The Justice Department has outlined a new strategy"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 02:15 GMT 03:15 UK
US urges Elian handover
Elian's Miami neighbours back moves to keep him in the US
Elian's Miami neighbours back moves to keep him in the US
The US Justice Department has begun new legal moves aimed at getting relatives of the six-year-old Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez to hand him over to his father.

The department asked a federal appeals court in Atlanta to order the relatives to give up the boy - a day after they won a temporary ruling from the court barring anyone from taking Elian out of the country.

Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, arrived in the US last week to take his son home, nearly five months after the boy was rescued from the sea clinging to an inner tube.

On Thursday the relatives who have been looking after him in Miami defied a government order to hand Elian over, which has prompted a Justice Department letter to Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez informing him that he had broken the law by refusing to meet the deadline.

Promise

The Justice Department's new effort to re-unite the boy with his father includes a promise to issue a "departure control order", which would meet one of the Miami relatives' demands by preventing Elian leaving the country until the court finishes its review of his case.


The Elian saga
27 Nov: Rescued off Florida coast
29 Nov: Cuba accuses US of kidnap
11 Dec: Lawyers file for asylum for Elian in US
5 Jan: INS decides Elian should return to Cuba
11 Jan: Miami judge grants great-uncle temporary custody
26 Jan: Elian's grandmothers meet him in Miami
21 Mar: Judge rejects Elian asylum application
6 April: Elian's father arrives in Washington
12 April: Janet Reno orders relatives to hand over the boy
13 April: Handover deadline ignored
Our Miami correspondent, Malcolm Brabant, says the proposal represents the last chance for Elian's Miami relatives to avoid federal marshalls coming to get the boy and getting into serious trouble themselves.

But there has been more defiance from outside Lazaro's house in Miami's Little Havana district - the family spokesman, Armando Gutierrez, produced an affidavit alleging that Elian's father had been abusive both to the boy and his mother, Elizabeth Brotons, who drowned on the ill-fated voyage to Florida in November.

This new attack on the character of Elian's father suggests that the Miami relatives are in no mood to voluntarily reunite the boy with Juan Miguel Gonzalez - the main US Government demand.

If they continue to resist, the government may be forced to send in federal marshalls to get Elian and Juan Miguel will be free to take his son back to Cuba.

The custody battle was triggered by the death of Elian's mother, along with 10 other people, when the boat carrying them illegally from Cuba to the US sank off the Florida coast.

Enforcement

A panel of three judges will meet in the coming days to consider whether to uphold the temporary ruling won by the relatives on Thursday, and the government's latest response.



Video footage featuring the boy has infuriated the authorities
A full hearing on the Elian case is scheduled for 11 May.

The US Immigration and Naturalisation Commissioner, Doris Meissner, said on Friday that action would be taken to enforce this ruling.

"There will be action taken. We are now in a situation where we need to enforce an order and a family is not in compliance with the law," she said on NBC's "Today" programme.

Elian's father is reportedly becoming increasingly frustrated with the delays. His lawyer has accused the Miami relatives and their supporters of unlawfully detaining Elian and of exploiting him.

His lawyers were infuriated by a video, released by the Miami relatives on Thursday, showing Elian telling his father he did not want to go back to Cuba.

Speaking in Spanish on a home video, Elian said: "I don't want to go to Cuba. I want to stay here."

Whatever the judges' decision, the Miami relatives' Cuban-American supporters are unlikely to allow Elian to leave quietly.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters who gathered at the family's house in Little Havana promised to form a human chain to prevent government agents from going in to take the boy.

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See also:

14 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian video sparks controversy
12 Apr 00 | Americas
What awaits Elian in Cuba?
09 Apr 00 | Americas
Miami divided over Elian
14 Apr 00 | Americas
Janet Reno: From Waco to Elian
04 Apr 00 | Americas
High emotion in Havana and Miami
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