Bush: Castro's resignation should launch "a democratic transition"

Other News Materials 19 February 2008 15:20 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - US President George W Bush said Tuesday that the decision by Cuban leader Fidel Castro to step down from power "should be the beginning of a democratic transition" on the communist island just miles off the coast of Miami.

Bush was asked, in a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda, during his six-day African tour, what he thought the latest news on Castro meant for US policy.

"The question really should be what does this mean for the people in Cuba," he countered.

"I believe that the change from Fidel Castro ought to begin a democratic transition," he stressed. "The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for a democracy."

Bush noted that the United States "will help the people of Cuba" towards this end.

Castro, 81, renounced his presidency and military leadership of Cuba on Tuesday, after more than a year of illness and absence from the job.

"I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief," Castro said in a message to the Cuban people published in the Communist Party daily Granma.

The posts, which Castro himself has held for decades, are set to be filled when the new Cuban National Assembly holds its first meeting Sunday.