US willing to accept Cuban prisoners


Spain said today that the United States has expressed willingness to take in Cuban political prisoners released following diplomatic intervention from Spain and the Catholic Church.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who has taken part in talks involving church officials and the Cuban government, on Saturday to thank him for his efforts and offer US support.

"(Clinton) expressed to Moratinos the willingness of the United States to take in political prisoners provided it complies with current U.S. norms," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

About half of the 52 men arrested in a 2003 crackdown by the Cuban government against dissidents have been freed since July, and the rest are expected to be released in the coming months.

However, some have refused to travel to Spain, saying they would rather stay in Cuba or go to the United States.

The US and the European Union have long pressed Havana to free political prisoners, improve human rights and move toward democracy.

Most political prisoners freed previously have left Cuba and gone to the United States or Spain to live.