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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 12:41 GMT
Spielberg meets Castro
Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw visit Cuba
Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw attended the première of Minority Report
Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has held an eight-hour meeting with Cuba's Communist leader Fidel Castro during his four-day visit to the country.

The pair discussed cultural exchanges, history, the environment and the US trade embargo, according to official delegates.

Spielberg - the maker of blockbusters such as Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Saving Private Ryan - was invited to Cuba by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry.

He has been critical of US sanctions on Cuba.

Ovation

And on Tuesday night the director attended the Cuban première of his most recent film, Minority Report, which stars Tom Cruise.

Over 300 people were turned away from the screening at Chaplin Theatre in the capital Havana. The several hundred more who managed to attend gave Spielberg a standing ovation when he appeared.

Spielberg told the crowd that Cubans were "exploding with passion and talent and self-respect".

"I feel so much at home here. I hope to come back many times in the future," he added.

President Fidel Castro
President Fidel Castro chatted to Spielberg for eight hours

Spielberg has been accompanied by his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and television director Jake Paltrow, brother of Hollywood actress Gwyneth.

He has already met with young Cuban film-makers, as well as private visits to a synagogue and a Jewish cemetery, as well as visiting US diplomats.

Clean slate

When he arrived on Monday he criticised America's continuing 40-year trade embargo on Cuba.

He said he could not understand why his country would trade with countries it had been in conflict with - such as North Korea and China - but not Cuba.

He said he wanted the US administration to "wipe the slate clean".

Under US law, its citizens have to get official permission to be able to spend money in the country - a law which effectively bans US nationals from visiting Cuba as tourists.

The US embargo started because of Castro's 1959 coup, and nationalisation of Cuba's industries and assets.

But Spielberg's visit - officially sanctioned by the US because it is a non-commercial cultural exchange - comes during a possible thaw in US/Cuban relations.

A trade show involving many US companies is currently being held in Havana. It is the first time US companies have been able formally to set up trade links with Cuba since the start of the embargo in 1960.

See also:

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