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Cuba not afraid to talk with US

HAVANA, Apr 6 – Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States — and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbour.

The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans.

"We’re not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don’t need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website Sunday.

Castro said the 47-year-old US economic embargo on Cuba was a "total failure," and agreed with Indiana Senator Richard Lugar’s recent proposal that the White House appoint a special envoy to review relations with Cuba.

"Those who can quietly analyse the facts, like the Indiana senator, have an indisputable argument: after nearly half a century, the US measures against Cuba are a total failure."

"We exist precisely because we believe in our ideas, and we’ve never been afraid to talk with our adversary. It’s the only way to achieve friendship and peace between peoples," he added.

Fidel Castro, in a separate article Sunday, challenged Latin American nations to support an end to his country’s isolation at a regional summit this month that will include Obama.

Castro said an upcoming Summit of the Americas would be a "trial by fire" for the region as they discuss Cuba’s half-century-old dispute with Washington.

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The revolutionary icon said a draft of the text set to be discussed by leaders from Latin America, the Caribbean and Obama was "unacceptable" and would result in the continued isolation of the communist island.

Cuba will be blocked from attending the April 17-19 summit in Trinidad and Tobago, part of a long-standing US attempt to bar the country from regional meetings.

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