U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that it would not be wise now to end an economic embargo against Cuba.
Rice made the comment during a visit to Morocco today, in response to a statement by Cuba's foreign ministry declining a U.S. offer of hurricane relief.
The Foreign Ministry in Havana issued a statement Saturday saying it appreciated the U.S. government's gesture. But the statement said the U.S. should end its economic embargo against the island if it really wants to help Cuba.
Rice said today that Washington would be responsive to Cuba's request if the government freed political prisoners and had a process in place for free and fair elections. She said nothing like that seems to have occurred.
Last week, U.S. officials said they were prepared to provide assistance to Cuban citizens through non-government organizations.
U.S. officials said the offer to send aid was in keeping with past moves to send disaster aid to Cuba and did not mark a shift in U.S. policy toward Havana.
In 2005, Cuba offered to send 1,600 physicians to the United States to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of the U.S. Gulf Coast. But Washington said Cuban help was not needed.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.