Cuba OK's U.S. assistance

October 28, 2005

Miami Herald- Pablo Bachelet

WASHINGTON - The State Department said Thursday Cuba has accepted a U.S. offer to send government officials to assess damage from Hurricane Wilma, an apparent reversal of Havana's long-standing policy of refusing all official U.S. aid while the trade embargo is in place.

The acceptance was communicated late Wednesday in a diplomatic note sent by Havana to U.S. diplomats in Cuba, adding a surprising twist to the tit-for-tat hurricane diplomacy that has lately marked bilateral relations. However, one U.S. official cautioned it was not yet a done deal, as both sides were working over the logistics of the visit.

And Cuba was asking the United States to broaden the scope of the visit to discuss disaster cooperation in general, while the Bush administration is offering to assess damage from Wilma only, according to one congressional aide who is aware of the negotiations but requested anonymity.

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