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Rift Widens as Cuba Rejects New Spanish Ambassador

November 26, 1996

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Cuba rejected Spain’s designated ambassador to Havana on Tuesday, widening a rift that has split Cuba and one of its biggest investors since Spain’s Socialists lost power in May.

Spain’s new conservative leaders called the rebuff to its intended ambassador an ``unjustifiable tantrum,″ following Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s insistence on withholding aid to Communist Cuba until it moves toward democracy.

Foreign Minister Abel Matutes said Spain was ``considering all of the possibilities″ in response.

Cuba refused to accept Jose Coderch Planas as ambassador because he had said he would welcome opponents of Fidel Castro to the Spanish Embassy, according to Granma, Cuba’s official Communist Party newspaper.

Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency said Coderch was ``the author of many statements characterized here as interventionist and outside diplomatic norms and conventions.″

Statements by Matutues and Aznar also contributed to Cuba’s action, it said.

Aznar took office in May after 13 years of Socialist governments.

Spain _ one of the biggest investors in Cuba _ has pressed Castro for reforms ever since, with Aznar withholding $3 million in aid budgeted for Cuba this year.

Aznar also has urged the European Union to use the $15 million given Cuba each year through nongovernmental agencies in Europe as leverage to push for change.

Castro accused Aznar last weekend taking money from a ``terrorist mafia″ of Cuban exiles in Miami. In response, Aznar called Castro a dictator.

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