Leaders of 14 Caribbean nations called Monday for the United States to lift its decades-old embargo against Cuba, as they gathered in the Cuban city of Santiago to discuss economic ties.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, said the Caribbean community, or Caricom, hopes the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will relegate that policy to history.  He noted that many members of the United Nations have called for the elimination of the embargo.

Cuban President Raul Castro has said he would be willing to meet with Mr. Obama in the future.  Mr. Obama has said he would like to lift travel restrictions on Cuban Americans, and revisit other U.S.-Cuba policies.

But Mr. Obama has said he would maintain the nearly 50-year-old embargo as leverage to push for democratic change on the Communist-led island.

Participants at the Caricom meeting are also expected to discuss the regional impact of the world financial crisis.  Food supplies, energy, and climate change are on the agenda as well. 

Officials plan a tribute to Mr. Castro's older brother, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since July 2006, when he underwent emergency intestinal surgery. 

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