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US orders expulsion of 15 Cuban embassy officials in Washington

US ORDERS EXPULSION OF 15 CUBAN EMBASSY OFFICIALS IN WASHINGTON

The United States expelled 15 Cuban embassy officials in Washington in response to a sharp reduction in US embassy staff in Havana, a State Department official said.

The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of 15 diplomats from Cuba's embassy in Washington following last week's U.S. move to pull more than half of its own diplomats out of Havana, a State Department official said.

The U.S. decisions were based on the Cuban government's failure to do enough to protect American personnel in Cuba who have been targeted in mysterious "attacks" that have damaged their health, the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Cuban diplomats have been given seven days to leave.

"We are maintaining diplomatic relations with Havana," said the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US official said that 22 people have now been affected.

The diplomatic note delivered Tuesday to the Cuban embassy ordering the reductions is meant to maintain "equitable staffing levels" between the two embassies, the official said.

"This does not signal a change of policy or determination of responsibility for these attacks," he said.

The attacks, initially described as emanating from some sort of acoustic device, have affected at least 22 US embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.

Those affected have exhibited physical symptoms including ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.

The United States will "continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks," he added.

The steps being taken by President Donald Trump's administration mark a further blow to his predecessor Barack Obama's policy of rapprochement between Washington and Havana, former Cold War foes.

In late September, Tillerson said he was withdrawing more than half the personnel from its embassy in Cuba in response to the mysterious attacks.



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