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Bush Clamps Down on Cuba, Tightens Embargo

PRESIDENT Bush Saturday called for the further isolation of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and tightened the US embargo on Cuba by closing American ports to ships doing business with Havana.

"Today we are closer than ever to our goal of returning freedom to Cuba," Bush said in a written statement issued by the White House in Maine, where he is spending the Easter vacation.

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Noting that the collapse of the former Soviet Union cost Havana economic and military subsidies that had been as high as $5 billion annually, Bush said, "Castro is on his own."

"My administration will continue to press governments around the world on the need to isolate economically the Castro regime," he said. "Together we will bring to Cuba a new era of ... democracy."

Bush issued orders closing United States ports to cargo ships that "are engaged in trade with Cuba." An administration official said one aim of the president's action was to close a loophole in the US trade embargo imposed in 1960, following Castro's ascent to power.

The official said certain Cuban goods have been sold in the United States because they first were shipped to a third country and then sent to the United States for sale. Cuban sugar, for example, has been bought and delivered to a third country and then resold in the United States.

Bush embraced most aspects of a bill now before Congress that is intended to topple the Castro regime, but warned that some aspects would inadvertently weaken the embargo.

He said the bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Toricelli, a New Jersey Democrat, would unintentionally allow Cuba access to millions of dollars from telephone service with the United States.

An administration official said the White House also opposes stiffer restrictions on subsidiaries of US firms that operate in other countries and deal with Cuba.

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