U.N. Votes for 16th Straight Year to Urge U.S. to End Cuba Embargo

The U.N. General Assembly voted for the 16th straight year Tuesday to urge the United States to end its trade embargo against Cuba, whose foreign minister accused the U.S. of stepping up its "brutal economic war" to new heights.

The 192-member world body approved a resolution calling for the 46-year-old U.S. economic and commercial embargo against Cuba to be repealed as soon as possible.

"The blockade had never been enforced with such viciousness as over the last year," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told the assembly, accusing President Bush's administration of adopting "new measures bordering on madness and fanaticism" that have hurt Cuba and interfered in its relations with at least 30 countries.

Delegates in the General Assembly chamber burst into applause when the vote in favor of the resolution flashed on the screen — 184 to four with one abstention. That was a one-vote improvement over last year.

The vote came less than a week after Bush delivered his first major address on Cuban policy in four years, attacking the communist government and challenging the international community to help the island shed Fidel Castro's rule.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Cuba, lists the country as a state sponsor of terror and has long sought to isolate it through travel restrictions and a trade embargo. This year, it stepped up enforcement of financial sanctions.

Castro, 81, temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul in July 2006 after undergoing intestinal surgery, and has not been seen in public for more than a year.

The Bush administration sees Castro's failing health as an opening for change. Little is different under Raul Castro, 76, and Bush said in his speech that the U.S. will make no accommodations with "a new tyranny."

"It is long past time that the Cuban people enjoy the blessings of economic and political freedom," U.S. diplomat Ronald Godard said just before Tuesday's vote.

"We urge member states to oppose and condemn the Cuban government's internal embargo on freedom, which is the real cause of the suffering of the Cuban people," he added.

Perez Roque accused the United States of violating international law, depriving Cuban children of medication, and even preventing Cuban writers from participating in a book fair in Puerto Rico.

He expressed Cuba's solidarity with U.S. movie producer Oliver Stone, who was attacked by the U.S. government for filming in Cuba, and activist director Michael Moore, who is being investigated for visiting Cuba.

"It is McCarthyism of the 21st century," Perez Roque said.

"Without doubt, as you well know, the brutal economic war that has been imposed on Cuba hasn't only affected Cubans," he added, pointing to banks and companies in many countries that have been hurt by the U.S. financial measures.

Perez Roque accused the U.S. of ignoring the 15 previous resolutions "with arrogance and political blindness."

"Cuba will never surrender," he said. "It fights and will fight."