Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba seeks normalization with US

    Posted on Monday, 09.26.11

    Cuba seeks normalization with US
    Associated Press

    UNITED NATIONS — Cuba wants to re-establish relations with the United
    States with a focus on humanitarian and other issues, Foreign Minister
    Bruno Rodriguez said Monday.

    Rodriguez also called on President Barack Obama to release five Cubans
    serving U.S. espionage sentences, telling the opening of the new U.N.
    General Assembly that the continued imprisonment of the five men
    convicted of espionage in 2001 is "inhumane." The Cuban government
    refers to the five men as heroes who were gathering information about
    terrorist groups in the to protect their homeland.

    The foreign minister said the two countries had many points of
    understanding in common.

    "The Cuban government reiterates its willingness and interest to move
    toward the normalization of relations with the United States," Rodriguez

    "Today I reiterate the proposal of beginning a dialogue aimed at solving
    bilateral problems, including humanitarian issues, as well as the offer
    of negotiating several cooperation agreements to combat
    drug-trafficking, terrorism, human smuggling, prevent natural disasters
    and protect the environment."

    Among the humanitarian issues pending between the two countries is the
    continued imprisonment of American , who the Cuban government
    accuses of illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island
    while on a USAID-funded democracy building program.

    In March of this year he was sentenced to 15 years in for crimes
    against the state.

    Cuban officials including President accused him of spying,
    but says he was only trying to help the island's tiny Jewish
    community get access.

    The case has harmed any chance of improved relations between Washington
    and , which briefly seemed to be getting better after Obama
    assumed the presidency.

    In an interview with The New York Times during his current visit to the
    United States, Rodriguez did not rule out the possibility of Gross being
    freed for humanitarian reasons. But he indicated Cuba would expect some
    kind of reciprocal action.

    Rodriguez did not mention Gross in his speech to the assembly on Monday,
    but spoke several times about the five imprisoned Cubans.