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Raul Castro 'ready' to talk to the U.S.

Dec. 2, 2006 at 7:29 PM

HAVANA, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Interim Cuban leader Raul Castro said Saturday his country is willing to hold talks when the United States is ready, but only if Cuba is treated as an equal.

Speaking at a military parade in honor of his brother Fidel -- who turned over authority to Raul in July after suffering a mysterious illness -- Raul said Cuba is willing "to settle the long U.S.-Cuba disagreement at the negotiating table."

However, negotiations would begin only when the United States respects Cuba as an equal, he added.

The Cuban leader went on to opine that U.S. forces in Iraq had reached a "dead end" and the war on terrorism was headed toward a "humiliating defeat," Gramna newspaper reported online.

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro missed the military parade in his honor Saturday marking the 50th anniversary of his return from exile.

The parade was part of a national commemoration of Fidel's 80th birthday, which occurred in August though the celebration was postponed due to his illness.

Fidel underwent gastro-intestinal surgery in July for an undisclosed illness and anointed his brother as Cuba's interim leader.

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