Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 16:58 UK

US lifts Cuba mobile phone ban

A Cuban talks by cell phone in a street in Havana
Thousands of mobile phone contracts have been taken out since last month

US President George W Bush has said Americans will soon be allowed to send mobile phones to relatives in Cuba.

The change in US policy follows the Cuban government's easing last month of restrictions on mobile phone ownership.

Previously they could only be bought by government officials and people working for foreign firms.

The decades-old US trade embargo against Cuba remains in place. But Americans will now be able to include mobile phones in gift parcels for Cuba.

Speaking at the White House on Cuba Solidarity Day, Mr Bush said: "Cubans are now allowed to purchase mobile phones, DVD players and computers, and they have been told that they will be able to purchase toasters and other basic appliances in 2010.

Imposed in 1962
Made it illegal for US companies to conduct any kind of business with Cuba
Relaxed in 2000 to allow sale of agricultural goods and medicine
UN has voted 16 times to recommend the end of the embargo

"If the Cuban regime is serious about improving life for the Cuban people, it will take steps necessary to make these changes meaningful", he added.

Cuba's President Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in February, has made a number of economic reforms, and lifted restrictions on Cubans staying in tourist hotels, and renting cars.

"If Raul is serious about his so-called reforms", Mr Bush said, "he will allow these phones to reach the Cuban people".

The state telecoms company Etecsa expects to sell 1.4 million new mobile phone contracts over the next five years.

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