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Cuba Condemns US Cuts to Embassy Staff Over 'Health Attacks'


FILE - A view of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 18, 2017.

A senior Cuban official on Monday condemned Washington's decision to make the withdrawal of 60 percent of the U.S. Embassy staff permanent in response to mysterious ailments affecting American diplomats.

Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, the new director of U.S. issues at the foreign ministry, said the decision was motivated by politics and had nothing to do with the safety of diplomats.

He told reporters that the cuts would hurt consular services and make travel more difficult for ordinary citizens. He said it might also erode long-standing cooperation on migration.

The State Department made the cuts permanent last week. It initially scaled back staff in October in response to hearing loss and other ailments affecting at least 24 U.S. citizens. U.S. investigators have not determined a cause and Cuba denies any wrongdoing.

A State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, called the Cuban complaint "ridiculous."

"Let's remind Cuba: They are obligated under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomats. It is very serious that 24 of our U.S. government colleagues suffered health attacks, some with serious and ongoing symptoms. Secretary Tillerson had to protect his staff by limiting our work at the U.S. Embassy in Havana to emergency services," she said.

"While our investigation is ongoing, rather than find excuses, Cuba should focus on helping to locate who or what is responsible for the harm caused to American citizens," Nauert added.