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The BBC's Juliet Gilkes reports
"The Cuban diplomat is refusing to go quietly"
 real 28k

The BBC's Richard Lister reports
"The Clinton administration will be glad to have this bizarre diplomatic row behind them"
 real 28k

Sunday, 27 February, 2000, 04:22 GMT
US ejects Cuban diplomat

Imperatori was escorted from the country by the FBI
A Cuban diplomat accused by the United States of spying has been put on a flight out of the country.

He has been expelled from the US for not voluntarily departing by the appointed time.

James Rubin, State Department
Jose Imperatori, who refused to leave despite a formal expulsion order, was taken from his Maryland home by FBI agents on Saturday night and put on a flight to Montreal.

From Canada he is due to catch a Sunday morning flight to Havana.

"The diplomat in question no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities conferred by the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations," State Department spokesman James Rubin said.

"He has been expelled from the United States for not voluntarily departing by the appointed time."

Mr Imperatori was declared persona non grata after being linked to Mariano Faget, a Cuban-born US immigration officer recently arrested for allegedly spying for Havana.

Hunger strike

The diplomat had earlier said that he would go on hunger strike until he could prove his innocence.

The US had given Mr Imperatori, vice-consul at Cuba's Interests Section in Washington, until lunchtime local time (1830 GMT) on Saturday to leave the country.

Cuba says the spying allegation is linked to the Elian dispute
But Mr Imperatori instead resigned his post, thereby giving up his diplomatic immunity and leaving himself open to prosecution by the US authorities.

"I shall remain in the same apartment in which I have lived and, as of this moment, I declare myself on a hunger strike until I have been absolutely cleared of the accusation brought against me," he told reporters.

Cuba, which calls the charges against the diplomat "a colossal lie," refused to recall him and challenged the US Government to prove its case in court.

Elian dispute

The State Department says the expulsion order is based on evidence presented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after agents arrested Mr Faget, an Immigration service supervisor, for allegedly passing information on defectors to Cuba.

The FBI said it had watched Faget meet a Washington-based Cuban diplomat at a Miami airport bar.

Fidel Castro's government denies that Mr Faget spied for Cuba
Cuba says that the latest dispute between Havana and Washington, which do not maintain formal diplomatic ties, is really a manoeuvre to try to block the return of shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.

The Cuban boy, rescued off Florida in November after a boat capsize in which his mother and 10 other illegal Cuban migrants drowned, is at the centre of a highly politicised custody battle between his father in Cuba and relatives in Miami.

The Clinton administration has denied any connection between Elian and Mr Imperatori.

BBC Washington correspondent Richard Lister days there is no doubt that US officials will be glad to have this bizarre diplomatic row behind them.

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See also:

20 Feb 00 |  Americas
Cuba defies US expulsion order
19 Feb 00 |  Americas
US expels Cuban diplomat
18 Feb 00 |  Americas
Cuba spy charge for US official
20 Oct 98 |  Americas
Castro admits US espionage
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