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Bush announces plan to help democratic transition in Cuba

By dpa news     Oct 24, 2007 in Politics
US President George W Bush said Wednesday the Cuban regime was in its "dying gasps" and announced new initiatives to help speed a transition to democratic and economic freedoms in the communist country.
"Now is the time to support the democratic movements growing on the island," Bush said in a speech at the State Department in Washington.
Bush announced that the United States will ask countries to contribute to a multi-billion-dollar "freedom fund" that would provide loans and grants to Cubans to ease the transition, but only after the government allows real elections and basic freedoms.
"Once these freedoms are in place, the fund will be able to give Cubans, especially Cuban entrepreneurs, access to grants and loans and debt relief to help rebuild their country," Bush said.
Among the other initiatives Bush announced was licensing non- governmental organizations to provide the Cuban public with computers and the internet if the regime lifts restrictions on information, and expanding a US scholarship programme to include Cuban students "if the Cuban rulers will allow them to freely participate," Bush said.
"We make these offers to the people of Cuba, and we hope their rulers will allow them to accept," Bush said. "We've made similar offers before but they've been rejected out of hand by the regime." dpa mm aw