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The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Washington
"Juan Miguel Gonzalez is eager to take his son to Cuba"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rob Watson reports
"The Miami relatives haven't given up hope yet of keeping the boy in America"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK
Father's plea to end Elian feud
Elian's Cuban classmates
One step closer to returning to Cuba
The father of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez has appealed for an end to the legal battle to keep his son in the US after an appeal court ruled against granting a political asylum hearing.

A child should simply be with his parents

Juan Miguel Gonzalez
The verdict is a blow to the boy's Miami relatives who have been fighting a campaign to prevent him returning to Cuba.

The relatives said they would now take their case to the US Supreme Court.

The boy has been the subject of a long-running custody battle since he was rescued off the Florida coast in November. His mother and 10 others drowned while attempting to flee from Cuba.

Appeal decision

Elian's cousin Marisleysis:
Elian's cousin Marisleysis: The battle is not over yet
The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that immigration officials acted properly when they denied an asylum hearing for the boy.

The judges decided that only Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who wants to take his son back to Cuba, has the right to speak for his child.

But the court gave the boy's Miami relatives 14 days to appeal against the decision, ruling that Elian could not leave the country until that time elapsed.

Relatives' options
Ask for retrial by same three judges
Ask for retrial by all 12 court judges
Appeal to Supreme Court against latest ruling
Any appeal must be made within 14 days
If no appeal is made, Elian can return to Cuba a week later

Shortly afterwards, US Attorney General Janet Reno said Elian would not be allowed to leave the country for at least 21 days.

Welcoming the court's decision, she said the earliest Elian could return to Cuba would be seven days after the appeal period ended, if his Miami relatives did not appeal against the decision.

Lawyers for the relatives immediately said they would file for a formal Supreme Court appeal within 10 days and sought to ensure the boy would not be allowed to leave the country until their legal case is considered.

Father's plea

Elian's father said after the ruling that he and his son should be allowed to "finally go back home together".

Juan Migual Gonzalez
Juan Miguel Gonzalez appealed to be allowed to return to Cuba with his son
He said: "A child simply should be with his parents, always with his parents."

Mr Gonzalez's lawyer, Gregory Craig, appealed to the Miami relatives to accept the court's decision with "grace and dignity" and to call a halt to the legal battle.

"It is now time to end this chapter of Elian's life and let this family go in peace," he said.

Emotional scenes

There were emotional scenes outside the home in Little Havana, Miami, where Elian had once lived, after the court ruling was announced.

Little Havana woman
In Little Havana there was dismay at the news
Protesters screamed and cried, with one saying that democracy and freedom had been "thrown to the trash".

In Cuba, the court's decision was broadcast on state television but reports criticised the fact that Elian could not yet return.

Our Havana correspondent says so far there are no visible preparations for Elian's return to Cuba.

He says the Cuban Government has in the past denounced what it called the public circus over the case in Miami and wants to make a deliberate contrast.

But the Havana authorities have also promised to make the anti-US rallies of the past six months a permanent feature of Cuban life.

Clinton welcomes decision

US President Bill Clinton, on a trip to Europe welcomed the latest ruling.

"I have supported the Justice Department's conclusion that Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, is the one best suited to speak for his child," President Clinton said. "I am pleased that the court has upheld the Justice Department's determination."

The six-year-old was placed in the care of his Miami relatives after surviving the shipwreck.

He was forcibly removed from his relatives' home by the authorities in April after they refused to obey court orders to hand him over.

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See also:

02 Jun 00 | Americas
Cuban anger at court ruling
11 May 00 | Americas
Legal fight over Elian
01 May 00 | Americas
Millions demand Elian's return
26 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian strike
18 Apr 00 | Americas
Elian's relatives at war
27 Apr 00 | Americas
What's life really like in Cuba?
01 Feb 00 | Americas
Tug-of-love over Elian
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