- MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters)
- Cuba accused President Bush on Friday of threatening to boycott this
week's U.N. aid summit in Mexico unless Cuban President Fidel Castro was
made to leave, but Bush insisted he didn't pressure anybody.
- Castro abandoned the summit meeting in Mexico's northern
city of Monterrey on Thursday, shortly before Bush arrived, and a senior
Cuban official said the communist leader was asked by Mexican officials
to make himself scarce.
- "We received very senior people from the Mexican
government before the conference who indicated they had been subjected
to U.S. government pressure, specifically threats from President Bush that
he would not come to Monterrey if Fidel Castro came," said Ricardo
Alarcon, president of Cuba's national assembly.
- Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox, the summit host,
both denied the allegations but the dispute threatened to end a recent
easing in U.S.-Cuban tensions and hit Cuba's long-standing friendship with
- Asked at a joint news conference with Fox whether he
would have felt uncomfortable meeting Castro, Bush responded that what
made him uncomfortable about the Cuban leader was "the way he treats
- "I know of no pressure placed on anybody. Fidel
Castro can do what he wants to do," he said.
- Asked "who's lying here?" by a second reporter,
a visibly annoyed Bush snapped: "I thought I answered that question."
- Fox said of Castro: "He participated in the conference
and returned to Cuba. Nothing more."
- Alarcon, who took over as head of Cuba's summit delegation
when Castro walked out on Thursday, said the veteran leader refused to
stay away from the conference altogether but agreed to cut short his trip,
leaving after his speech and before Bush arrived.
- CUBA-MEXICO RELATIONSHIP STRAINED
- Mexican officials "with great authority transmitted
the message and specifically asked us, given they could not prevent Fidel
from coming, that he leave immediately after lunch," Alarcon said.
- Mexico has been a close ally of Castro's government since
he took power in 1959 but relations have been strained in recent years
as Mexico has moved closer economically and politically to the United States.
- The latest dispute has largely overshadowed the summit
meeting and some officials here have privately suggested that may have
been Castro's intention all along.
- "The presence of Fidel in the summit has been a
highly important event, which in diplomatic terms means he stole the show,"
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told Cuban state TV in a telephone
interview from Monterrey.
- Cuban state TV and radio have played Castro's speech
over and over again, and a special two-part program on the "repercussions"
of his presence in Monterrey was shown on Thursday and Friday evenings.
- President Vicente Fox's government has offended Cuba
by criticizing it over human rights and democracy issues.
- The five-day U.N. development conference, attended by
more than 50 heads of state in the final two days, ended late on Friday
with rich and poor nations saying they had struck a new bargain to fight
- "We must tie greater aid to political and legal
and economic reforms," Bush told the conference on Friday morning.
- Castro ridiculed the rich world's efforts to fight poverty
during his speech on Thursday, saying they were masters of a "genocidal"
system that condemns billions to misery.
- "The existing world economic order constitutes a
system of plundering and exploitation like no other in history," he
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