Bush rejects talks with Castro

Other News Materials 28 February 2008 21:57 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - US President George W Bush said Thursday he will not hold talks with Cuban leader Raul Castro because of the regime's track record of jailing political dissidents and suppressing human rights.

"I'm not suggesting there's never a time to talk, but I'm suggesting now is not the time not to talk with Raul Castro," Bush said in a press conference. "He's nothing more than the extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island and imprison people because of their beliefs."

Raul Castro became the official leader of Cuba on Sunday, more than 18 months after he was actively running the country because of Fidel Castro's illness. Fidel announced last week that he was formally resigning after 49 years in power.

The Bush administration has said it will not alter its hardline policy on Havana or begin lifting sanctions that have been in place since the 1960s until democratic reforms are introduced on the communist island.

"Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him," Bush said.

"He gains a lot from it by saying, 'Look at me. I'm now recognized by the president of the United States'," Bush said.

Bush was asked about whether he would hold dialogue with Castro after Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama said he would meet with the new Cuban leader to prod him on human rights and political prisoners.