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‘Conciliatory’ Castro Seeks Talks on Nicaragua, Congressman Says

January 18, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A ″conciliatory″ Fidel Castro has expressed willingness to hold negotiations on Nicaragua with the United States, says a congressman who met with the Cuban leader this week.

Rep. Bill Alexander, D-Ark., told a news conference Thursday shortly after returning from Cuba that Castro suggested a stalemate in Central America could be broken.

″Castro said in no uncertain terms he is willing to sit down and have talks with the United states on a peaceful political settlement to the situation in Nicaragua,″ Alexander said.

Alexander and Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, spent six days in Cuba, visiting with government officials and businessmen. He and Leach met three times with the Cuban leader, with the last set of talks Wednesday including Rep. Mickey Leland, D-Texas, who had arrived in Havana last week. Alexander described the mood as ″very conciliatory.″

″There was a general atmosphere of reduced tension between the United States and Cuba which was too conspicuous to ignore,″ Alexander said.

Alexander, who visited Cuba in August, said at that time, Castro ″kept his distance″ when asked about using his influence with the Sandinistas to help secure a settlement in Nicaragua. But this time, he said, ″Castro demonstrated a presence as an interested party in the Central America issue.″

Castro ″made it very clear he wanted to cooperate in the process of negotiations,″ Leach said.

″My sense is that Castro has reached a decision that lessening of tension is in the interests of both″ Cuba and the United States, said Leach.

Alexander said Castro also indicated ″a very strong willingness and desire″ to cooperate with efforts to mediate in Angola. He said other topics for talks between the United States and Cuba might include arms control, radio interference, and the co-existence of capitalism and communism.

He also quoted Castro as saying an agreement to take back ″undesirable″ Cuban refugees from the United States was a positive step.

But Alexander said Castro balked at the suggestion he release political prisoners, ″because of the possibility they might be plotting his overthrow.″

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