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Clinton Bars Suit Against Cuba

January 17, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton suspended for another six months a law that would let Americans sue people using U.S. property confiscated after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

The right for American companies and citizens to sue in U.S. courts is in a law Congress approved in 1996, but the legislation gave the president authority to waive or enforce the provision at six-month intervals.

Clinton has exercised the waiver authority since the law was approved, much to the annoyance of Cuban-American lawmakers and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, R-N.C., co-author of the legislation with Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

The Helms-Burton act was designed to discourage foreign investment in Cuba by punishing foreign companies investing in property confiscated from Americans.

The State Department lists 5,911 U.S. firms and citizens whose property was nationalized without compensation by the Cuban government, mostly in the 1960s.

``I believe this action will enhance efforts by the United States to strengthen international cooperation aimed at promoting peaceful democratic change in Cuba,″ the president said in a statement released in Little Rock, Ark., where he addressed a joint session of the Arkansas General Assembly.

What President-elect Bush decides to do in July, the next six-month interval, will be an indicator of the new administration’s view of Cuba.

Clinton said the United States has worked to step up international pressure on the Cuban government to respect human rights and to begin political and economic reforms.

``Our friends and allies have joined us by taking concrete actions to try to hasten the day when Cuba will join the community of democratic nations,″ he said.

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