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Cuba refuses hurricane aid offer, U.S. says

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  • U.S. State Department says Cuba rejects $5 million in aid
  • Island nation reeling from storms, including hurricanes Ike and Gustav
  • U.S. temporarily suspends some restrictions on groups sending aid to Cuba
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, on Monday urged the Cuban government to think again about its refusal of direct U.S. assistance for hurricane victims.

"We call on the Cuban government to reconsider their decision on the United States offer, which we made with no preconditions and whose only objective was to get relief to people in dire need." USAID administrator Henrietta Fore said in a Monday afternoon conference call with reporters.

Fore said the United States over the weekend had offered to begin relief flights as soon as Tuesday to Cuba, on civilian aircraft, delivering plastic sheeting, blankets and hygiene kits. The first flight would have brought aid worth $349,000.

"And while we wait for the Cuban government's reconsideration of the United States offer we will continue to implement other components of our $5 million assistance package," Fore added.

The United State will immediately obligate approximately $1.5 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to reputable international relief organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

Fore said she will be in Honduras on Tuesday to inspect hurricane damage and review aid needs there.

Earlier in the day, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack gave the first information that United States had made a weekend offer -- and the Cuban government had refused -- of $5 million in hurricane relief.

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The United States on Saturday "informed the Cuban government that the U.S. government is committed to providing up to $5 million in relief assistance to Cuban hurricane victims and that we could fly emergency relief supplies to Cuba as soon as the Cuban government authorized such assistance," McCormack said at his daily briefing.

"On the 14th of September, just yesterday, the Cuban government informed us they would not accept a donation from the United States," he said.

The United States has temporarily suspended some restrictions on private aid groups, sending assistance and money to Cuba.

And McCormack said Monday he United States had in recent days licensed agricultural exports to Cuba worth $250 million, including lumber for reconstruction.

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