Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    US: No deal with Cuba on release of American

    Posted on Thursday, 09.13.12

    US: No deal with Cuba on release of American
    The Associated Press

    WASHINGTON -- A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Thursday the
    U.S. does not see any willingness on Cuba's part to seriously discuss
    the release of imprisoned American contactor Alan Gross, and urged
    Havana to send him home as a humanitarian gesture.

    State Department spokeswoman Neda Brown was responding to a senior Cuban
    diplomat's comment Wednesday that her country was prepared to negotiate
    a solution in the case and was awaiting a U.S. response.

    Gross was working on a USAID-funded democracy building program when he
    was arrested in 2009 at Havana's Jose Marti airport. He says he was only
    trying to provide Internet service to the island's small Jewish community.

    Cuba says the multimillion-dollar programs are an effort by Washington
    to undermine the government, and has noted that Gross was carrying
    sophisticated communications equipment.

    Gross was sentenced to 15 years, and has lost his final appeal, leaving
    him out of legal options.

    Previously, senior officials in Cuban President Raul Castro's government
    have raised the case of five Cuban agents sentenced to long jail terms
    in the United States, though they have not spelled out publicly that
    they are seeking an exchange for the 63-year-old Maryland man, who has
    been held for 2 1/2 years.

    "The Cuban government's assertion that it is waiting for a response from
    the United States on a standing offer to negotiate the release of U.S.
    aid worker Alan Gross is not true," Brown told the AP.

    "We have always been ready to hear from Cuba about a humanitarian
    gesture on their part to immediately release Mr. Gross. We have not seen
    a willingness by the Cuban Government to discuss seriously a resolution
    to this issue," Brown said.

    Cuban Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal gave no further details.
    It was the first time a Cuban official has hinted that a specific
    proposal has been made and indicated that the ball was in Washington's

    U.S. officials say privately, however, that Havana has made it
    increasingly clear they want a quid pro quo, something Washington has
    repeatedly rejected.

    Jared Genser, a Washington-based attorney for the Gross family, said in
    a statement that there was no sign that a deal was in the works.

    Citing his contacts with the White House, State Department and members
    of Congress, Genser said: "It has been consistently reported to me that
    Cuban government officials have been unwilling to put a concrete
    proposal on the table."

    "If Ms. Vidal is serious, I would urge her to convey through diplomatic
    channels a clear proposal to initiate meaningful discussions with the
    United States to secure Alan's release," Genser said.

    He has said American officials had long made clear to the Cubans that
    trading Gross for the Cuban agents is a nonstarter.

    Gross's wife, Judy, traveled to Cuba and visited her husband in custody
    several times last week.

    She said upon her return to the United States that she feared he would
    not survive his ordeal.Gross, who was obese when he was arrested in
    December 2009, has lost more than 100 pounds (45 kilograms) in custody.

    His wife and lawyer say he also suffers from arthritis and has developed
    a mass behind his right shoulder blade that is not believed to be cancerous.

    Vidal said the American's physical condition is fine. "Mr. Gross's
    health continues to be normal and he exercises regularly," she said in
    the brief statement.

    Associated Press writers Paul Haven in Havana and Desmond Butler in
    Washington contributed to this report.