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US Considering Changes in Cuba Travel Policy

U.S. officials say the Obama administration is considering easing some travel restrictions to Cuba.

Administration and congressional officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the goal is to make it easier for researchers, educators and students to travel to the communist-led island. Details of the proposed policy shift were first reported by The New York Times.

The White House and State Department declined to comment Tuesday.

President Barack 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.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American from New Jersey, opposes any policy changes. He says loosening restrictions would reward a government that has shown little interest in reform.

In a recent statement, Menendez said this is not the time to ease pressure on the Castro government. He said that promoting travel and wide-spread remittances will give the government a much-needed infusion of dollars that will only allow the Castro brothers to extend what he called their reign of oppression and human rights violations.

A U.S. congressional panel voted in June to lift the decades-old ban on American travel to Cuba, to make it easier to sell U.S. agricultural exports there. Similar measures have failed in Congress in recent years as opponents have argued that lifting the ban could prop up Cuba's government.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.