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Bush rules out talks with Raul Castro

world Updated: Feb 29, 2008 15:04 IST
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US President George W Bush has said he would not hold talks with Cuba's new leader Raul Castro unless a real transition to democracy takes place in the communist-ruled nation, EFE news agency reported on Friday.

In a press conference, Bush said a meeting with Castro would send "a wrong message" to human rights defenders and may serve to enhance the standing of a "tyrant".

Bush said, the US will continue to pursue its current policy and maintain its 45-year-old economic embargo on Cuba until Havana begins to move towards freedom.

Raul Castro, 76, became Cuba's president on Sunday, succeeding his ailing 81-year-old brother Fidel Castro.

"Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him," Bush said.

In his first address to the National Assembly as president, Castro said Sunday the country has a priority to satisfy the basic needs of the population. The government is considering revaluing the Cuban currency peso to give state workers more purchasing power.