US Drops Cuba from State Terrorism List

Friday, May 29, 2015

The State Department today removed Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, paving the way for full diplomatic recognition and an opening of embassies.

It has been 45 days since President Obama announced plans to remove Cuba from the list of nations that support terrorism and there was no attempt by Congress to stop the action.

The State Department said that while differences with the country remain, they weren't a bar to Cuba's removal from the list.

"While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation," spokesman Jeff Rathke said.

Only Syria, the Sudan and Iran remain on the list.

Cuba was added to the terror list in 1982, accused by the US of providing support to terrorist organizations in Latin America, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

But the State Department admits those ties have "become more distant." Last December, President Obama announced the State Department would be reviewing Cuba's designation and the president officially requested Cuba's removal April 14, days after meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas.

Removing the terror designation lifts some trade barriers against Cuba. But the overall embargo remains, requiring congressional action to reverse.

Sources tell ABC News today's action paves the way to opening embassies in Havana and Washington. An announcement on that move may come as early as next week.

Preparations in both countries are well underway including remodeling at the current Interest Sections, which have served as diplomatic headquarters since the late 1970s.

The last time that both countries had embassies was January 1961.

Sources say both sides are optimistic that differences such as in-country travel by diplomats have been resolved.

ABC News' Justin Fishel contributed to this report.

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