U.N. urges U.S. to end Cuba’s trade embargo

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly urged the United States on Tuesday to end its 44-year-old trade embargo against Cuba, a call U.S. Ambassador John Bolton dismissed as ``a complete exercise in irrelevancy.''It was the 14th straight year that the 191-member world body approved a resolution calling for the U.S. economic and commercial embargo against Cuba to be repealed ``as soon as possible.''

The vote was 182-4, with 1 abstention, a higher ''yes'' vote than last year's vote of 179-4 with 1 abstention. Many delegates in the General Assembly hall burst into applause when the result was flashed on an electronic screen.

The United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands voted against the resolution, while Micronesia abstained. Four countries did not indicate any position at all -- El Salvador, Iraq, Morocco and Nicaragua.

The resolution is not legally binding, and Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Pйrez Roque noted that the U.S. government has ignored it for the past 13 years. But he said that that didn't diminish ``the legal, political, moral and ethical importance of this vote.''

In Cuba, hundreds of government supporters in Havana's convention center shouted in glee and jumped up and down when the result was announced. State-run television showed high-ranking officials among those gathered to await the news, but Cuban President Fidel Castro did not appear to be there.

Bolton chose to attend a Security Council meeting to vote on an Iraq resolution rather than the General Assembly vote on Cuba.

Cuba launched a broad public relations campaign drawing attention to its complaints against the embargo, and speaker after speaker in the General Assembly debate opposed the U.S. sanctions imposed after Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

The embargo, aimed at toppling Castro's socialist system, has been steadily tightened under President Bush's two terms. Pйrez Roque said ''most likely'' Bush would tighten the blockade even further. ''Never before, as in the last 18 months, was the blockade enforced with so much viciousness and brutality. Never before had we seen so cruel and relentless a persecution by a U.S. administration against the economy and the right of the Cubans to a dignified and decent life,'' the Cuban minister said.

But Pйrez Roque stressed that ``the U.S. government is delusional with the idea that it can overthrow the Cuban revolution,'' reports the AP. I.L.

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