Saturday, January 3

Trust? Honest?

ok, can you believe this one? note on the first line of the article. Are you kidding me? After all the dude is a politician.

Cuba offers direct talks with US

Cuban President Raul Castro. Photo: 1 January 2009
Raul Castro said Cuba was not "desperate" to hold talks with the US

Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is ready to hold direct talks with US President-elect Barack Obama, but played down any quick breakthrough.

Mr Castro described Mr Obama as an "honest man", but said his election had given rise to "excessive hopes".

Mr Castro, who took over from brother Fidel in 2008, was speaking a day after Cuba marked the 50th anniversary of its communist revolution.

Mr Obama has pledged to ease the 46-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba.

Speaking on state TV on Friday, President Castro repeated his previous assertions that Havana was ready for direct talks with the US "without intermediaries, directly".

"But we are in no rush, we are not desperate," he stressed.

Mr Castro said Mr Obama, who is due to take office on 20 January, could "do a great deal, could take positive steps".

"A president is coming in who has raised a lot of expectations in many parts of the world, hopes that are too high, I think," he added.

Muted celebrations

On Thursday, people across Cuba celebrated the anniversary of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

Barack Obama
Mr Obama has said he wants to meet Cuban leaders

Speaking from the same balcony where his older brother declared victory on 1 January 1959, President Castro predicted the revolution would survive another 50 years.

The festivities were muted as Cuba struggles with big economic challenges and the aftermath of three hurricanes.

The frail health of Fidel Castro also dampened the mood of celebrations, says the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana.

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