Cuban President Raul Castro has repeated an offer to discuss "everything" with the United States to try to improve ties, but said Cuba does not have to make "gestures" to the U.S.

President Castro made the comment Wednesday during a speech in Havana to a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.  But the Cuban leader said Cuba is not willing to negotiate its sovereignty or its political and social systems and that it is up to the U.S. to do more to improve relations.  

State Department spokesman Robert Wood responded to Mr. Castro's remarks by saying Cuba must show it is serious about dialogue by releasing political prisoners and taking other steps to improve human rights.  

Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama eased restrictions on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to family in Cuba, but left the long-standing U.S. embargo against the communist-led island in place.  He has said it is up to Cuba to take the next step.

On Monday, a senior U.S. diplomat met with the head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington for the second time in as many weeks for exploratory talks on prospects for improving the historically chilly U.S.-Cuban relationship.  

The State Department spokesman downplayed the significance of the meeting, saying the U.S. and Cuba have had discussions in the past when events warranted them.

But another official told VOA he was only aware of one such meeting during the last year of the recent Bush administration.  A spokesman at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington declined to comment on Monday's meeting.  

The United States and Cuba do not have formal diplomatic relations.  They have interests sections that are technically part of the Swiss embassies in each other's capitals.

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