In Brief

Cuba does not sponsor terror says US, as relations thaw

The 'significant message of confidence' is crucial step in improving relations between the two countries

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The White House has announced that it will remove Cuba from a list of nations that sponsor terrorism, in a key move aimed at normalising relations between the former Cold War enemies.

Barack Obama said the US was confident that the government of Cuba had "not provided any support for international terrorism" over the past six months and would not do so in the future.

The decision follows a highly-anticipated meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro in Panama last week, the first of its kind in over half a century.

Relations between the two countries have been frozen since 1961 when the US severed diplomatic ties and imposed a trade embargo after the country's revolution, which ushered in a communist regime.

"This is a significant message of confidence by the Obama administration towards the Cuban government," says the BBC's Thomas Sparrow. "And it carries a lot of weight too, because it officially changes the way the US government has viewed Cuba since 1982." 

The removal of Cuba from the list - which now just includes Iran, Sudan and Syria – could pave the way for the opening of a US embassy in Havana and other significant steps. However, a trade embargo is still in place and can only be withdrawn by Congress.

"Cuba's place on the list has long snarled its access to financial markets and, more recently, emerged as a sticking point in negotiation to reopen embassies that have officially been closed for five decades," the New York Times reports.

Officials in Cuba have welcomed the decision, arguing that it is long overdue. "The government of Cuba acknowledges the fair decision of the president of the United States to take Cuba off a list on which it should never have been included," said the country's foreign ministry.

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