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Cuba open to talks with US over detained 'spies'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Visiting Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Monday that Cuba was ready to open talks with the United States on swapping their respective nationals held for spying.

Speaking to reporters after meeting his Brazilian counterpart Antonio Patriota, Rodriguez referred to US contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba, and of Cubans convicted of espionage in the United States.

"Cuba has signaled to the United States its readiness to open serious, respectful talks, taking into account humanitarian aspects, to try to find a solution to the case of Mr Alan Gross and also taking into account reciprocal humanitarian concerns in the case of the other Cuban citizens still detained in the United States," he added.

"Gross was sentenced for violating Cuban laws as agent of a foreign power who tried to set up (spy) rings with use of non-commercial technology, military technology for avoiding satellite signals, to change the constitutional order of our country," the Cuban chief diplomat said.

Gross, 64, was arrested in December 2009 for distributing laptops and communications equipment to members of Cuba's small Jewish community under a State Department contract.

Rodriguez was queried about Gross after a Florida federal court last Friday ruled that one of five Cubans convicted of spying in the United States would be allowed to remain permanently in Cuba in exchange for renouncing his US citizenship.

Rene Gonzalez, 56, who was on probation in the United States after serving 13 years in prison for espionage, has been in Cuba since traveling there to attend the April 22 burial of his father.

Gonzalez was arrested in 1998 along with the other members of the Cuban Five group -- Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez.

The five men were found guilty in 2001 of trying to infiltrate US military installations in South Florida and were given long prison terms, ranging from 15 years to life. Gonzalez was released from prison in October 2011.

Cuba has admitted that the five were intelligence agents but says they simply aimed to gather information on "terrorist" plots by Cuban expatriates in Florida -- not to spy on the US government.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130506/cuba-open-talks-us-over-detained-spies