Cuba says investigating 'incidents'
concerning U.S. diplomats in Havana
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[August 10, 2017]
By Yeganeh Torbati and Sarah Marsh
WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on
Wednesday it was investigating allegations by the United States that
unspecified "incidents" caused physical symptoms in Americans serving at
the U.S. Embassy in Havana, after two Washington-based Cuban diplomats
"Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be
used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their
families," the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday.
"It reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the clarification of this
Havana said it had started a "comprehensive, priority and urgent
investigation" into the alleged incidents after it had been informed of
them by the embassy in February.
Earlier on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert
told reporters that the exact nature of the incidents was unclear, but
Americans serving in Cuba had returned to the United States for non
life-threatening "medical reasons."
The United States first learned of the issues at the embassy in late
2016, she said.
"We don't have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of
what we consider to be incidents," Nauert said. "It's caused a variety
of physical symptoms in these American citizens who work for the U.S.
government. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an
investigation currently under way."
As a result, the United States on May 23 asked two Cuban officials in
Washington to leave the country and they have done so, Nauert said, an
action that Cuba described as "unjustified".
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An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June
19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
"What this requires is providing medical examinations to these
people," Nauert said. "Initially, when they'd started reporting what
I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was,
and this is still ongoing. So we're monitoring it."
A U.S. government official said several colleagues at the U.S.
embassy in Havana were evacuated back to the United States for
hearing problems and other symptoms over the past six months. Some
subsequently got hearing aids, said the official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic relations in 2015
after more than five decades of hostilities, re-opening embassies in
each other's capitals and establishing a new chapter of engagement
between the former Cold War foes.
President Donald Trump rolled back part of his predecessor Barack
Obama's policy toward Cuba, but has left in place many of the
changes, including the re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana.
(Reporting by Mohammad Zargham and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington and
Sarah Marsh in Havana; Editing by G Crosse, Toni Reinhold)
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