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Obama administration wants to resume migration talks with Cuba

The Obama administration is looking to engage Cuba further, asking the Castro government Friday to resume migration talks that President George W. Bush suspended in 2004.

The move comes a month after President Barack Obama lifted travel and gift restrictions for those with relatives on the island and eased restrictions that limit the ability of U.S. telecommunication firms to do business in Cuba. It also comes as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Honduras for a June 2 gathering of the Organization of American States, where the reintegration of Cuba into the hemispheric body promises to be a hot topic.

Some Cuba watchers who favor increased engagement with Cuba _ including the Cuban American National Foundation _ had urged Obama last month to resume the migration talks, among other moves.

Florida's Cuban American Republican members of Congress, however, immediately criticized the overture.

"The administration should insist on the regime's full compliance with the migration accords before reopening formal talks," said Sen. Mel Martinez. "Otherwise, this will be little more than a concession to the regime and a departure from the president's commitment to make freedom the 'lodestone' of our policy towards Cuba."

In a joint statement, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart called the move a "unilateral concession" to the Cuban government and demanded that the Castro government must first comply with 1994 and 1995 accords that were intended to smooth migration between the two countries .

The United States and Cuba had regular migration talks until December 2003, when Washington canceled a scheduled meeting because it said that Cuba was unwilling to cooperate. Since then, there's been little communication between Washington and Havana on the issue.

The Cuban regime continues to deny "hundreds of exit permits annually to Cuban nationals who have received visas to enter the United States," the three members of Congress said. "The Obama administration should first insist that the Castro dictatorship complies with the Accord before renewing 'talks.' Regrettably, this constitutes another unilateral concession by the Obama administration to the dictatorship."

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