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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 06:52 GMT
Cuban leader meets Vatican envoy
Raul Castro and Cardinal Bertone - 26/02/2008
Cardinal Bertone was promised more media freedoms for Cuba
Cuba's new President Raul Castro has met a senior Vatican official for his first diplomatic talks since taking over on Sunday.

President Castro, former leader Fidel Castro's brother, met Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone in Havana.

Cardinal Bertone said he told the Cuban leader the Catholic Church was worried about Cuba's political prisoners.

Raul had been acting president since Fidel had major emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006.

Fidel Castro stepped down last week after nearly half a century in charge.

Media freedoms

Raul Castro broke from wearing his usual military uniform, and instead was seen in a blue business suit.

After their closed-door meeting, Cardinal Bertone said with the "utmost respect for the sovereignty of the country and its citizens, I expressed to President Raul Castro the Church's worries for prisoners and their families".

Cuban television said the two men "reviewed the status of relations between the Cuban state and the Holy See and the Catholic Church in Cuba" and also "discussed issues of multilateral and international interest".

Earlier, the Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican's number two official, said Cuban officials "promised me more openness in the print press and the radio - and in some exceptional cases, in television as well".

Cardinal Bertone said he wanted to improve relations between the Church and Cuba and between Cuba and the world.

During his six-day visit, Cardinal Bertone called the US embargo against the island nation "ethically unacceptable".

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