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US Congressional Delegation Heads to Cuba


A delegation of U.S. congressional lawmakers will arrive in the Cuban capital of Havana Friday, as speculation grows over the condition of ailing President Fidel Castro.

The 10-member delegation is headed by Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Massachusetts Democrat William Delahunt. The two lawmakers advocate easing the four-decade long U.S. embargo on trade and travel with the Communist island nation. It is not known if the delegation will meet with Fidel Castro's younger brother Raul.

The older Castro has been out of the public eye since handing over power to Raul Castro in July when he underwent intestinal surgery. His prolonged absence has led to speculation that his health is failing.

John Negroponte, the U.S. director of national intelligence, tells The Washington Post that everything indicates that Fidel Castro will die within months.

Raul Castro appealed for talks with the United States earlier this month during a national celebration of his older brother's 80th birthday.

But senior U.S. State Department official Tom Shannon - head of the State Department's Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau - said earlier this week that he does not foresee any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba until a leader there commits to change.

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