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UN urges Washington to end Cuba embargo
Updated: 2005-11-09 10:34

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly urged the United States on Tuesday to end its 44-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, a call U.S. Ambassador John Bolton dismissed as "a complete exercise in irrelevancy."

It was the 14th straight year that the 191-member world body approved a resolution calling for the U.S. economic and commercial embargo against Cuba to be repealed "as soon as possible."

The vote was 182 to four, with one abstention, a higher "yes" vote than last year's vote of 179-4 with one abstention. Many delegates in the General Assembly hall burst into applause when the result was flashed on an electronic screen.

The United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted against the resolution, while Micronesia abstained. Four countries did not indicate any position at all — El Salvador, Iraq, Morocco and Nicaragua.

The resolution is not legally binding and Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque noted that the U.S. government has ignored it for the last 13 years. But he said that did not diminish "the legal, political, moral and ethical importance of this vote."

In Cuba, hundreds of government supporters in Havana's convention center shouted in glee when the result was announced. In the streets of the capital, other Cubans expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

"It's time for them to stop this shamelessness," said Fidencio Alonso, referring to the embargo. "What they are doing tramples us."

Bolton, who chose to attend a Security Council meeting to vote on an Iraq resolution rather than the General Assembly vote, told reporters "this is a complete exercise in irrelevancy."

Cuba launched a broad public relations campaign drawing attention to its complaints against the embargo, and speaker after speaker in the General Assembly debate opposed the U.S. sanctions imposed after Fidel Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

The embargo, aimed at toppling Castro's socialist system, has been steadily tightened under the Bush administration.

"Never before, as in the last 18 months, was the blockade enforced with so much viciousness and brutality. Never before had we seen so cruel and relentless a persecution by a U.S. administration against the economy and the right of the Cubans to a dignified and decent life," the Cuban minister said.

Jamaica's U.N. Ambassador Stafford Neil, speaking on behalf of a group of mainly developing countries and China, voiced opposition to "unilateral coercive measures against developing countries."

But Ronald Godard, a senior adviser to Bolton, told the General Assembly that Castro was trying to blame the United States for the failure of his economic policies.

He repeated a U.S. challenge to Castro in 2002 to open the Cuban economy, permit free and fair elections to the National Assembly, and allow independent trade unions.

"Castro answered this challenge for freedom with imprisonment for human rights leaders and trade unionists," Godard said.

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