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HAVANA, (Reuters) - President Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members, yesterday criticised four-decade-old economic sanctions against Cuba, and urged normalisation of relations between Washington and Havana.
``The trade embargo imposed by the United States is an anachronism in this era of globalisation and trade liberalisation and should be removed,'' he said in Cuba, which he is visiting with other CARICOM leaders.
Cuban President Fidel Castro invited CARICOM leaders for a special get together over the weekend to reflect on 30 years of friendship and solidarity since four member states of the Community - Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados - jointly established non-resident diplomatic relations with Cuba on December 8, 1972.
President Jagdeo, who currently heads the group as Chairman of CARICOM, thanked Cuba for scientific and medical assistance to its Caribbean neighbours. Castro said close to 1,000 Cuban health workers were stationed in CARICOM-island states, and offered to double the number to help fight AIDS.
He praised Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago for helping Cuba break its hemispheric isolation by establishing diplomatic relations 30 years ago, despite opposition from the United States.
``This courageous decision adopted by small, newly independent countries in a hostile environment, was a fundamental step in breaking the diplomatic and commercial blockade of Cuba in the region,'' Castro said.
CARICOM leaders discussed economic integration with Cuba and the prospects of increasing trade, which currently only amounts to $120 million per year.
Cuba has sought to join CARICOM, but so far has only been admitted as an observer.
Castro, hosting a summit of Caribbean leaders in Cuba for the first time, said yesterday that his government will reapply for membership to the Cotonou Accord, a European cooperation agreement with former colonies.
Communist-led Cuba had withdrawn a request to join, made in 2000, maintaining that European conditions regarding human rights were discriminatory.
``The situation has changed in part. Some humiliating conditions have been lessened,'' Castro said, announcing his decision to reapply, in opening remarks yesterday to the assembled leaders.
The Cotonou Accord between the European Union and former African, Caribbean and Pacific colonies, offers development aid and preferential trade terms to them.
Cuba is a former colony of Spain.
Thirteen Heads of State from the 15-member CARICOM attended the weekend summit.