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China, N. Korea Congratulate Raul Castro

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BEIJING —  China and North Korea _ two of the world's few remaining communist countries _ have congratulated new Cuban President Raul Castro, saying they hope to continue friendly relations with their fellow communist nation.

China praised Cuba's longtime leader, Fidel Castro, as an old friend, and said it hopes Cuba will continue to be stable and develop under the leadership of his brother, Raul Castro, according to a statement Tuesday on its Foreign Ministry's Web site.

"China and Cuba are friendly nations and China will continue to work with Cuba to push forward reciprocal and friendly relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in the statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sent a congratulatory message to the new Cuban leader, saying he hopes relations between the two communist countries will be further strengthened, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim said he believes "comradely and militant friendly and cooperative relations" between the two countries will "steadily grow stronger," the report said.

Both North Korea and Cuba are on the U.S. blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism, along with Iran, Syria and Sudan.

China and Cuba were Cold War antagonists during the Sino-Soviet split, but ties warmed after Cuba lost its financial backing with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Fidel Castro resigned as the country's president earlier this month after nearly 50 years in office. Raul Castro had been acting president since his brother fell ill in July 2006.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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