* Alan Gross, jailed since 2009, serving 15-year sentence
* Case halted progress in U.S.-Cuba relations
* Cuba has hinted at swap for five Cuban agents jailed in
By Jeff Franks
HAVANA, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Cuba has proposed talks with the
United States about resolving the case of jailed American
contractor Alan Gross, but has received no response, indicating
a lack of interest by Washington, a top Cuban diplomat said on
Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal said at a press
conference that Cuba had proposed discussions "as a first step
for the development of a process ... toward finding a solution
to the case of Mr. Alan Gross."
Gross, 63, has been jailed since December 2009 and is
serving a 15-year sentence for illegally setting up Internet
networks in Cuba under a U.S. program that promotes political
change on the communist island.
The Cuban government views the program as subversive.
Gross' imprisonment put the brakes on efforts by President
Barack Obama to improve long-hostile relations between the two
countries just 90 miles (145 km) apart. Gross' wife said last
week she feared for her husband's life because his health is
deteriorating. Cuba denied that.
Cuban officials have said before that they would be open to
talks about Gross, but this was the first time known that they
have said they had proposed them.
"I want to ratify today that up to this moment we have not
received a response from the government of the United States,"
said Vidal, who is the Cuban Foreign Ministry's director of
North American relations.
"We have only heard some public declarations they made to
the press in which the government of the United States has said
that it has nothing to talk about nor anything to negotiate
with the government of Cuba over this issue," Vidal said.
"Therefore, it is clear that it is not Cuba, but the United
States that is not showing interest in this case."
She gave no details of Cuba's proposal, but she spoke at an
event concerning the "Cuban Five" - Cuban agents jailed or
paroled in the United States on spying charges.
Cuban officials have hinted that a swap of Gross for the
five agents, who received lengthy sentences in a 2001 trial in
Miami, would resolve the case. The U.S. has insisted such a deal
is out of the question.
U.S. officials said last year they had suggested a swap of
Gross for one agent, Rene Gonzalez, who is out on parole in
Florida, but Cuba turned it down.
Cuba feels the five agents were unjustly convicted and made
their freedom a national cause, referring to them as the
At Monday's event in the Cuban capital, U.S. lawyers for the
five took part in a video conference from Washington to discuss
their latest attempt to appeal the case, which includes charges
that the U.S. government paid journalists during the trial
and tainted news coverage.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Christopher Wilson)
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