Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 20:21 UK

Castro welcomes US Cuba changes

Fidel Castro (image released 4 March 2009)
Castro welcomed the changes made by the Obama administration

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has described US rules allowing unlimited family travel and remittances to the island as "positive, although minimal".

He welcomed the changes - announced by the Obama administration on Monday - in a column posted on a Cuban web site.

The changes will allow Cuban Americans to travel more freely to Cuba and allow them to send more money to relatives still living there.

Last month Mr Obama signed a bill easing some economic sanctions on Cuba.

The changes fulfilled a pledge made by Mr Obama during his presidential campaign and would help bridge the gap between divided Cuban families, he added.

The US began imposing restrictions on Cuba after Mr Castro took power in 1959, making it the only communist state in the Americas - and a Cold War flashpoint.

'Promote democracy'

Mr Castro, 82, said more changes were needed, including the elimination of the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy which allows fleeing Cubans who make it to US territory to stay but returns to the island those apprehended at sea.

Robert Gibbs said the measures would allow Cubans to enjoy 'basic human rights'

Announcing the US changes on Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the aim was to promote democracy and human rights on the Caribbean island.

The move came as Mr Obama prepared for a summit with regional leaders in Trinidad later this week.

Under the changes, restrictions would also be lifted on US telecommunications companies applying for licences to operate in Cuba, Mr Gibbs added.

That move could open the way for a greater flow of information to the island via the internet, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington, although much will depend on the attitude of the Cuban government itself.

The US president has indicated he would be open to dialogue with Cuba's leaders.

But he has said that, like previous American presidents, he will only consider a full lifting of the US embargo once Cuba's communist government makes significant moves such as the holding of democratic elections.

Cuba's President Raul Castro has said he is prepared to negotiate with the new US administration, providing there are no preconditions.

Raul Castro formally took over the presidency from his elder brother last year.

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