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US, Cuban Officials Hold Migration Talks

Officials from the United States and Cuba have met in Washington for the latest round of migration talks between the two countries.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly was among the U.S. officials attending Friday's talks, which marked the third such meeting with Cuba since U.S. President Barack Obama took office last year.

Details of the talks were not known, but prior meetings have focused on implementing agreements to promote safe and legal migration between the two countries. U.S. officials, however, were expected to bring up the subject of an American contractor who has been jailed in Cuba since December.

Cuban officials said earlier this week that Alan Gross is under investigation for having violated Cuban laws and committing serious crimes in support of what those officials described as "subversive" U.S. policies. Cuba has alleged Gross is a spy - a claim the United States denies. He has not been charged with a crime.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement Thursday saying the U.S. is deeply concerned about Gross's welfare and poor health, and that the U.S. has used every available channel to push for his release.

Secretary Clinton also said the United States would "view favorably" the release of Gross so that he can return to his family. Clinton met Thursday with relatives of the jailed contractor.

Havana accuses Gross of distributing illegal satellite equipment to dissident groups. The U.S. says Gross works for a private firm outside Washington called Development Alternatives, Inc. The company says he was taking part in a U.S. government-financed program to strengthen civil society in Cuba.

Earlier this month, the State Department said U.S. officials have made five visits to the contractor and were last granted consular access to him May 25.

President Obama has said he wants improved relations with Cuba. Last year, his administration eased travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island.

A decades-old U.S. embargo on Cuba remains in effect. Mr. Obama has said the embargo will stay in place until Havana takes steps toward democratic reforms.

The United States and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations, but have interest sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.

Cuban President Raul Castro has said his government remains open to talking with the United States about improving relations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.