UNITED NATIONS — Cuba wants to re-establish relations with the United States with a focus on humanitarian and other issues, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Monday.
Rodriguez also called on President Barack Obama to release five Cubans serving U.S. espionage sentences, telling the opening of the new U.N. General Assembly that the continued imprisonment of the five men convicted of espionage in 2001 is "inhumane." The Cuban government refers to the five men as heroes who were gathering information about terrorist groups in the United States to protect their homeland.
The foreign minister said the two countries had many points of understanding in common.
"The Cuban government reiterates its willingness and interest to move toward the normalization of relations with the United States," Rodriguez said.
"I reiterate the proposal of beginning a dialogue aimed at solving bilateral problems, including humanitarian issues, as well as the offer of negotiating several cooperation agreements to combat drug trafficking, terrorism, human smuggling, prevent natural disasters and protect the environment."
Among the humanitarian issues pending between the two countries is the continued imprisonment of American Alan Gross, whom the Cuban government accuses of illegally bringing communications equipment onto the island while on a USAID-funded democracy building program.
In March, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state.
Council to consider Palestinian U.N. bid
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council will meet Wednesday to start the process of formally considering the Palestinian request for membership in the world body, the council president said Monday.
Lebanese Ambassador Nawaf Salam, who holds this month's rotating presidency, made a brief appearance before reporters Monday and issued a statement in English and Arabic. He said the council had met Monday afternoon and decided to take up a decision on referring the issue for further consideration in two days. That will consist of forming a committee to study the Palestinian submission.
The United States has said it would use its Security Council veto to block Palestinian membership should the measure receive the necessary nine of 15 votes.