White House open to visit from Cuba's Raul Castro

The White House raised the possibility on Thursday of a visit to Washington by Cuba's President Raul Castro (above). -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The White House raised the possibility on Thursday of a visit to Washington by Cuba's President Raul Castro (above). -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House raised the possibility on Thursday of a visit to Washington by Cuba's President Raul Castro.

"I wouldn't rule out a visit from President Castro," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, the day after US President Barack Obama and Mr Castro agreed to restore diplomatic relations marred by more than 50 years of Cold War hostility.

Mr Earnest added, however, that the Cuban leader had not "necessarily indicated the desire to travel to the United States".

On Wednesday, Mr Earnest had said he would "not rule out a visit" by Mr Obama to Cuba but said nothing was scheduled.

"There are important national security reasons for the president to travel to other countries that have what we would describe at best as checkered human rights records," he said Thursday.

"These are countries where the President has urged the leadership of those countries to do a better job of respecting universal human rights," he said, citing China and Myanmar as examples.

In announcing the decision to restore ties with Cuba, Mr Obama said decades of trying to isolate it and oust its communist regime had failed, and it was time to turn the page.

World leaders welcomed the news, hailing it as a move to bury one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.