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Cuba Welcomes Removal From US Terrorism Sponsor List

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FILE - A man waves a Cuban flag while celebrating the restoration of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, in the courtyard of the Cuban Embassy in Santiago, Chile, Dec. 17, 2014.

FILE - A man waves a Cuban flag while celebrating the restoration of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington, in the courtyard of the Cuban Embassy in Santiago, Chile, Dec. 17, 2014.

Cuba is praising President Barack Obama's decision to remove the Caribbean island nation from Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Josefina Vidal, Havana's chief diplomat for U.S. affairs, issued a statement Tuesday welcoming Obama's "fair decision to take Cuba off a list that it never should have been included on."

Obama informed Congress of his decision earlier in the day, after a State Department review concluded that Cuba "has not provided any support for international terrorism" in the last six months and given the U.S. assurances that it does not intend to in the future.

Congress has 45 days to overrule the president's decision through a joint resolution, but lawmakers cannot stop it unless both chambers approve a joint resolution, a move that is highly unlikely.

Reaction from US Congress

Many of Obama's fellow Democrats hailed his decision and some experts said it was long overdue.

But U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American lawmaker from south Florida and newly announced Republican presidential candidate, denounced it as a "terrible'' decision, saying Cuba was helping North Korea evade sanctions and harboring fugitives from American justice.

The fugitives include Joanne Chesimard, wanted in the slaying of a New Jersey state trooper in the early 1970s.

Republican U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, another Cuban-American lawmaker from Florida, accused Obama of "capitulating to dictators.''

The United States first placed Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1982, due to communist island's support for leftist separatist groups such as FARC in Colombia and the Basque armed group ETA in Spain. But Havana is now sponsoring peace talks between FARC and the Columbian government, and has distanced itself from ETA.

Financial impact

Cuba's removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism could help it secure new financial investments from international markets.

Foreign investors in Cuba said delisting the country would prove positive for the Caribbean island's economy. Banks could legally do business with Cuba while it was on the list but the regulations proved onerous, leading 20 banks to stop doing business with the Cuban government or Cuban interests in third countries over the past 18 months, Cuba said.

Obama's action came just days after he met with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the first face-to-face meeting of leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years.

Washington and Havana have held several rounds of talks since the two leaders announced last December that they planned to resume normal diplomatic relations, bringing an end to hostilities stemming from the Cold War.

Iran, Sudan and Syria remain on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

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