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US backs down, will give Cuban journalists visas

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

WASHINGTON —  The United States has reversed itself and decided to allow two journalists for the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina to return to their posts at the United Nations, the State Department said Wednesday.

The department's original decision to deny re-entry to husband and wife team Tomas Granados Jimenez and Ilsa Rodriguez Santana had drawn condemnation from the press advocacy groups Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

"In accordance with our U.N. headquarters agreement, we have decided to issue visas to the two individuals in question," the department said in a footnote to the transcript of spokesman Sean McCormack's daily briefing.

McCormack had said he had been told that visa matters were confidential but added: "I think that they have appealed the decision, and I think that appeal is being considered right now."

The couple have covered the United Nations for Prensa Latina since 2005. They have been on leave in Cuba. The agency said U.S. authorities in Havana had not explained why their return entry permission was rejected.

The United States and Cuba have so-called interest sections in each other's capitals, but they do not have diplomatic relations. Washington has enforced a wide-ranging embargo on Cuba since 1960.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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