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Castro exit unlikely to thaw U.S.-Cuba relations

The State Department said Tuesday that Castro's departure won't lead to a change in policy or the lifting of the embargo.

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Fidel Castro's announcement that he would neither seek, nor accept, another term as president of Cuba is not expected to have an immediate impact on US policy toward the communist island-state.

Rather, the announcement is viewed as a continuation of a transition of power orchestrated by Mr. Castro himself. Analysts expect his brother, Raúl Castro, to be named president of Cuba on Sunday when the party meets to select the State Council and president.

In terms of US-Cuban relations, analysts say, the developments in Cuba fail to satisfy several conditions set by the Bush administration for improved ties. Washington has maintained an economic embargo for 46 years, and President Bush has refused to consider lifting the embargo or otherwise improving relations as long as Fidel Castro, or Raúl Castro, holds the reins of power.

In comments from Rwanda, Mr. Bush repeated his administration's conditions for improved ties to Cuba. "I view this as a period of transition," he told reporters. "It should be the beginning of the democratic transition for the people in Cuba."

Bush said the Cuban government should mark the current transition by releasing political prisoners and by building democratic institutions within Cuba.

John Negroponte, deputy secretary of State, told reporters that Fidel Castro's announcement would not prompt a change in US policy and a lifting of the trade embargo. "I can't imagine that happening any time soon," he said.

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