U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday he intends to take communist Cuba off the United States list of state sponsors of terrorism, part of his effort to normalize relations with the island nation after five decades of hostilities.
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The American leader told Congress of his intention after a State Department review concluded that Cuba "has not provided any support for international terrorism" in the last six months, and it has given the U.S. assurances that it does not intend to in the future.
Obama's action came just days after he met with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the first face-to-face meeting of leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years.
The terror designation had been a barrier in the resumption of relations between the two countries that are separated by 145 kilometers of open sea.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet for an informal talk on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, April 11, 2015.
Cuba had sought removal of the designation, but Obama delayed until the two countries ironed out other details of normalized relations.
The two countries plan to reopen embassies in each others' capitals, Washington and Havana, and the removal of Cuba from the list could help it secure new financial investments from international markets.
Three countries remain on the U.S. list as sponsors of state terrorism: Iran, Sudan and Syria.
The U.S. has long since stopped actively accusing Cuba of supporting terrorism. When Obama and Castro announced a thaw in relations in December, the U.S. president expressed his willingness to remove Cuba from that list.
However, he held off on making a final decision amid indications that the White House was reluctant to grant Cuba's request until other thorny issues - such as restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Havana - were resolved.
Cuba was designated a state sponsor of terror in 1982 because of what the White House said was its efforts " to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism.''
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that taking Cuba off the terror list does not change the fact that the U.S. has difference with the island nation's government.
"Our concerns over a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism,'' said Earnest.
Until Tuesday, the communist island nation remained one of four countries on the U.S. list of nations accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism. The countries still on the list are Iran, Sudan and Syria.
VOA's Aru Pande contributed to this report from the White House.