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Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, on February 24, 2013/AFP

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Cuba suspends consular services in US over bank hitch

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, on February 24, 2013/AFP

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, on February 24, 2013/AFP

WASHINGTON, February 14- Cuba is halting consular services from its de facto embassy in Washington after failing to resolve a long running search for a local bank willing to handle its accounts.

A statement from Cuba’s “Interests Section” in the US capital on Friday said it was suspending activities until it managed to find an institution able to process its day to day banking needs.

“Consular services will be suspended until banking services are re-established,” the statement said. Only urgent humanitarian cases would continue to be handled.

It is the second time in recent months that Cuba has halted consular activities because of problems over banking facilities.

It shut down from November 26 to December 9 last year after the M&T bank informed Cuban officials it was no longer willing to meet its requirements.

The suspension was lifted after services were extended by M&T until March 1, when all accounts were required to be closed.

Cuba has maintained its Interests Section in the US capital in lieu of an embassy ever since the Cold War rupture in relations between the two rivals.

The United States has had comprehensive economic sanctions — a full embargo — clamped on Cuba since 1962.

Friday’s decision affects the work of the Interests Section in Washington and Cuba’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York.

US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said officials had tried to help Cuban officials locate a suitable bank.

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“We have reached out to more than 50 banks and understand that several may be exploring whether to provide the mission with banking services,” Harf told reporters.

“We seek to help foreign missions that are otherwise unable to obtain banking services, because we think, obviously, it’s a good thing to help people who want to be represented here in the States,” she added.

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