Cuba accuses US of "unscrupulous lying" over hurricane aid offers

Other News Materials 12 September 2008 04:57 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Hurricane-hit Cuba on Thursday accused the United States of lying about its conditional offers to help the communist country as it struggles to recover and rebuild.

"The United States government is behaving cynically. It tries to suggest that it is desperate to cooperate with Cuba, and that we refuse. They lie unscrupulously," the Cuban Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have wreaked havoc in Cuba, displacing more than a million people and destroying tens of thousands of homes. The Cuban government was still to estimate the extent of the damage.

The Cuban government had asked the US to lift its decades-old embargo on trade - and allow North American companies to extend credit to Cuba - for certain materials needed for reconstruction after the deadly storms.

On Sunday, the US gave a resounding "no" to the request to lift the embargo for a limited time to allow relief goods and building materials to be traded to the disaster-struck island.

The US offered to send a humanitarian needs assessment team to Cuba, which is standard procedure for determining the country's response to a disaster, the State Department said in a statement Tuesday.

Cuba said it did not require the help of an external team "as it has a sufficient number of specialists, which practically have concluded that task."

The US is also providing 100,000 dollars in emergency assistance to relief organizations and has increased authorizations for US-based voluntary groups helping Cuban storm victims.

Confirming that the US offers were turned down twice, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday, "We're going to continue to work with countries in the region to see what we can do to help the people of Cuba."

Cuba said Thursday that it "has not asked the United States government to give it anything for free ... just to allow (Cuba) to buy."

The foreign ministry statement also said: "Anything else is pure rhetoric, pretexts and justifications that no one believes."

Also on Thursday, the US-based ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition launched a signature campaign to end the blockade. A statement from the group said: "What Cuba needs more than anything is the lifting of the US blockade, and an immediate end to the US trade and travel restrictions. The 47-year-old blockade has caused more than 86 billion dollars of damage to Cuba."