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Carter to Meet Cuban Dissidents

Former President Jimmy Carter (l) speaks with journalists, after visiting the Belen convent in Old Havana, Cuba, March 29, 2011

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is set to meet with Cuba's top dissidents one day after meeting with the government's top officials.

Among other critics, Carter will meet well-known blogger Yoani Sanchez. Sanchez announced the meeting on her twitter feed, saying she thanked Mr. Carter in advance for the "deference and respect."

Jimmy Carter, who is on a three-day, private visit to Cuba, said Tuesday his goal is to help improve relations between the United States and Cuba. He told reporters in Havana his visit is not intended to obtain the release of an American contractor jailed recently for crimes against the state, though he said he had spoken with Cuban officials about the case.

Later Tuesday, he also met with President Raul Castro. The details of their conversation were not released.

Alan Gross started serving a 15-year sentence earlier this month for bringing communications equipment into the country. The contractor has said he was just trying to improve Internet access for the island's small Jewish community. The case has held up progress in relations between the two longtime ideological foes.

Monday, Carter met with members of Cuba's Jewish community, as well as with Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has helped secure the release of some of the country's political prisoners.

This is Carter's second trip to Cuba. He first visited in 2002, the year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and met with then-President Fidel Castro. Castro's younger brother, Raul Castro, formally became president in 2008.

Carter is the most senior political figure to visit the communist-led island since the elder Castro took power in 1959.

His foundation, the Carter Center, says the invitation to visit came from the government in Havana.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.