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Cuba talks to exiled opposition groups

Cuba's vice president said his government has opened a dialogue with exile groups that seek a transition to democracy and the peaceful replacement of President Fidel Castro. Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez's comments were broadcast on Cuban state radio and monitored here Thursday, a week after a coalition of moderate exile groups publicly invited discussions about democratizing the communist nation.

Rodriguez said Cuba shunned contacts with more militant anti-communist exiles in Miami but confirmed the government has opened discussions with moderates, whom he did not identify.

He said those exiles propose "to liquidate Fidel Castro (through) dialogue; they are offering talks," the Miami Herald reported.

In Washington, U.S. State Department officials said they believed it was premature to suggest the Cuban leadership was open to democratic reform, but the Rodriguez statement was potentially significant. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Miami, Carlos Alberto Montaner, whose exile party belongs to the moderate Cuban Democratic Platform umbrella group, said his organization has met with Cuban officials to seek a solution to Cuba's mounting problems.