Historic encounter with Castro awaits Obama in Panama

  havana-live-obama-caricomHAVANA, 9 April (AP Josh Lederman) — Turning the page on a half-century of enmity, President Barack Obama signaled Thursday he will soon remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, boosting hopes for improved ties as he prepared for a historic encounter with Cuban President Raul Castro.

Hours before his arrival in Panama for a regional summit, Obama announced that the U.S. State Department had finished its review of Cuba’s presence on the list, a stain on the island nation’s pride and a major stumbling block for efforts to mend U.S.-Cuba ties. Obama said he would decide quickly after receiving the formal recommendation, all but ensuring action within days.

Calling the list “a powerful tool to isolate countries that genuinely do support terrorism,” Obama said that there must be strong evidence to support the designation and that “as circumstance change that list will change as well.”

With his optimistic assessment, Obama sought to set the tone for the U.S. and Cuba to come closer to closing the book on more than a half-century of estrangement, when he and Castro come face to face at the Summit of the Americas. Obama was arriving Thursday evening in Panama City.