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Raul Castro discusses ties with U.S. congressmen


16:04, February 20, 2013

HAVANA, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Cuban leader Raul Castro held talks here Tuesday with a seven-member delegation of U.S. congressmen on Cuba-U.S. relations.

The official news agency Prensa Latina (PL) reported that Castro and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont discussed international and regional issues of common concern for both countries, which have had no direct diplomatic relations since 1961.

Other delegation members included Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, Democratic Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

The Cuba-U.S. ties have been soured since U.S. contractor Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2009 for providing illegal communication devices to opposition groups.

In February 2012, Leahy and other U.S. congressmen visited Cuba to negotiate the release of Gross.

The United States broke off relations with the socialist island in 1961 and imposed severe economic sanctions on Havana.

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