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Obama: US Seeks Equal Partnerships in Hemisphere


U.S. President Barack Obama has a busy day Saturday at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago as he pushes for a renewed partnership among Western Hemisphere nations.

Mr. Obama will take part in four meetings Saturday. He first meets with members of the Union of South American Nations and then takes part in three general sessions.

At the start of the summit Friday, Mr. Obama called for a new beginning in relations between the United States and Cuba - a country not represented at the summit. Cuban President Raul Castro has said Havana is prepared to discuss any issue with Washington.

Mr. Obama also reached out to another old adversary of the United States, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. The two leaders shook hands briefly Friday, and Mr. Chavez was reported to have said to the U.S. president "I want to be your friend."

Mr. Chavez and other leaders at the summit, including Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner have spoken out against the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

The United States has lifted restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to the island, but not the trade embargo.

The head of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, says he will ask his group to re-admit Cuba at the next OAS General Assembly meeting this June in Honduras. Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 after the organization said Cuba's Communist government was incompatible with the OAS charter.

Besides Cuba, Mr. Obama announced a U.S. initiative to boost lending and spur economic growth and recovery in the Americas. He also proposed a hemispheric partnership to tackle energy and climate challenges.

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