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US Lawmakers Move to Ease Cuba Trade Restrictions

The U.S. House of Representatives has agreed to ease restrictions on agricultural trade with Cuba, so that Cubans would no longer have to pay in advance for goods shipped to the island.

Lawmakers passed the measure by voice vote on Thursday.

Supporters of the measure say it would eliminate delays in shipping goods to Cuba. But opponents say the current pay-first rule keeps Cuba from defaulting on its debts to U.S. exporters.

To become law, the measure would still need to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Bush. The president has vowed to veto any bill easing trade restrictions on Cuba.

The House passage marks a rare victory for opponents of U.S. policy on Cuba, who have tried unsuccessfully to overturn President Bush's tightening of sanctions against contacts, trade and travel with the communist country.

The amendment was offered by Republican Congressman Jerry Moran, of Kansas, who said the pay-in-advance rule had reduced U.S. exports to Cuba, was not working and was hurting American farmers.

Cuban-American lawmakers who have long defended the U.S. embargo on Cuba called the Moran amendment "unimportant" and suggested it would likely face a veto from President Bush.