Bush rejects opposition to Cuban embargo


US President Mr George W. Bush is today expected to reject calls by former US president Mr Jimmy Carter and others to end a 40-year-old trade embargo of Cuba.

Mr Bush will announce his support for the embargo as he appears at a Florida fundraising event for his brother, Florida governor Mr Jeb Bush.

Cuban-American voters helped carry the president to a narrow victory in Florida, the state that decided the 2000 election, and they favour his hard-line stance on Cuba. Mr Jeb Bush faces re-election this year and is also depending on Cuban Americans, who vote heavily Republican.

In the past, President sh has pledged to bolster aid to Cuban dissidents and to help overcome Cuba's jamming of US broadcasts beamed to the island, but aides said those two issues were not the focus of his Cuba speeches today.

Some experts believe that by aiding dissidents, the US indirectly helps Mr Fidel Castro, who can argue his opponents are US puppets.

Last Friday Mr Carter left Cuba and criticised the Bush administration’s support for the embargo and its travel restrictions placed on US citizens. They are fined tens of thousands of dollars and can face jail in the US if they are found to have travelled to Cuba.

"I think an American private citizen or an American company should have the right to visit any place on earth and the right to trade with any other purchaser or supplier on earth," Mr Carter said.

White House officials complained privately that the outspoken former President could muddle the US position on Cuba.

But last week, a group of 40 US legislators - Republicans and Democrats - also announced support for easing the embargo.p> AP