Thursday, November 27, 2008

Medvedev meets with Raul Castro in Cuba

HAVANA (AFP) — Visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Cuban President Raul Castro seeking to forge closer ties with the former Soviet Union's Cold War ally, on the last leg of a tour to boost Russia's reach in Latin America.

Not long after arriving in Havana around 2050 GMT from Venezuela, Medvedev held two rounds of official talks -- one private and one between the two countries' delegations -- at the imposing Palace of the Revolution.

Then the Cuban president, who maintains a low public profile, and Medvedev paid a visit to the new Russian Orthodox cathedral in colonial Old Havana, with bells tolling and security tight.

It marks the last stop for Medvedev on a four-nation trip, including Peru, Brazil and Venezuela, where he visited Russian warships due to carry out joint maneuvers next week.

It was unclear whether Medvedev, on the first visit by a Russian leader to Cuba since 2000, would also meet ailing former president Fidel Castro, 82.

The visit could be light on substance: there were no agreements scheduled to be signed though the countries do have cooperation in fields such as oil, nickel, telecommunications, biotechnology and tourism.

Medvedev's Latin America tour largely has sought to boost trade, despite the world economic slowdown, but was also seen as a rebuff to US moves in formally Communist-ruled parts of Europe, such as planned missile defense facilities.

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