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Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
U.S. official says Cuba still 'terrorist threat'
By Rafael Lorente
John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said there is a strong case for believing Cuba has a biological weapons research-and-development program. He made the allegations in a 25-page written statement on the development and spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Bolton also said Cuba has successfully hidden details of its weapons program, thanks to information passed to Havana by convicted spy Ana Belen Montes, the former senior Cuba analyst for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency.
Montes is serving 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to spying in 2002.
Montes "participated in interagency coordination of a national intelligence estimate on (biological weapons) and passed some of our most sensitive information about Cuba back to Havana," Bolton's written testimony said.
"Additionally, Montes' espionage materially strengthened Cuba's denial and deception efforts; the data Montes passed gave Havana ample opportunity to generate controlled information that could, via defectors and émigrés, reach Washington."
Bolton never verbalized his Cuba allegations during remarks before the House Committee on International Relations yesterday. Instead, he answered questions about the threats posed by Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and Libya.
Asked about his stronger comments on Cuba after the hearing, Bolton shrugged and said his written statement spoke for itself.
During testimony, Bolton said the United States has no evidence implicating senior Pakistani government officials, such as President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in taking part in the network that was selling nuclear secrets to countries such as Libya.
Bolton first made allegations about Cuba in May 2002, on the eve of former President Carter's trip to the island.
At the time, Bolton's charge, which was later repeated by other officials, was much more circumscribed. He said Cuba had "at least a limited, developmental offensive biological warfare research-and-development effort." Bolton said then that Cuba was providing some of its technology to rogue states.
Carter said he never received information about the allegations as part of the preparation for his visit to the island.
A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., ridiculed Bolton's allegations yesterday.
"Those are the usual, ridiculous lies that this man habitually makes about Cuba," said Lazaro Herrera Martinez, first secretary of the Interests Section. "It is ridiculous to say that Cuba poses a threat to the national security" of the United States.
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