US ex­pels 2 Cuban en­voys over sick em­bassy staff

New Straits Times - - World -

WASH­ING­TON: The United States ex­pelled two Cuban diplo­mats af­ter a num­ber of US em­bassy staff were forced to leave Havana be­cause of un­spec­i­fied med­i­cal symp­toms that were first re­ported last year, the State Depart­ment said on Wed­nes­day.

The Cuban diplo­mats were asked to leave their em­bassy on May 23, State Depart­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said at a brief­ing, with­out spec­i­fy­ing the num­ber of Amer­i­cans af­fected by th­ese symp­toms or de­tail­ing their na­ture.

“We first heard of th­ese in­ci­dents back in late 2016,” Nauert said.

“Some US gov­ern­ment per­son­nel who were work­ing at our em­bassy in Havana, Cuba... re­ported some in­ci­dents which have caused a va­ri­ety of phys­i­cal symp­toms.

“We don’t have any de­fin­i­tive an­swers about the source or the cause of what we con­sider to be in­ci­dents,” she said.

“We had to bring some Amer­i­cans home or some Amer­i­cans chose to come home as a re­sult of that. And as a re­sult of that, we’ve asked two Cubans to leave the United States, and they have.”

Later on Wed­nes­day, the Cuban gov­ern­ment con­firmed the re­port.

It said it had ob­jected to the ex­pul­sion of its of­fi­cials, while also urg­ing the US to work to­gether to shed light on the in­ci­dents ear­lier this year in Havana.

Re­la­tions be­tween the US and Cuba were re­stored in 2015 af­ter a half-cen­tury break by then-US pres­i­dent Barack Obama and his Cuban coun­ter­part Raul Cas­tro.

But the rap­proche­ment was par­tially rolled back by Obama’s suc­ces­sor Don­ald Trump, who in June an­nounced tight­ened rules for Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing to Cuba, banned ties with a mil­i­taryrun tourism firm and reaf­firmed the ex­ist­ing US trade em­bargo. AFP

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