Cuba alleges U.S., Mexico plot led Castro to leave U.N. summit

Fox, Mexican official, Bush deny accusations


HAVANA - Cuba called Mexico's foreign minister a shameless and "diabolical" liar yesterday as diplomatic tension between the two traditional allies veered toward a full-blown rift.

The tension stems from a United Nations aid summit in Mexico last week, when Cuban President Fidel Castro abruptly left the conference under cloudy circumstances.

In an unusual move, Cuban officials disclosed a detailed account yesterday of what they say led to Castro's quick exit. Their version of events included what they said happened behind closed doors as the countries wrangled over Castro's attendance at the summit.

According to the Cubans, it came down to this: President Bush didn't want to be in the same room as Castro and told the Mexicans that. Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda then tried everything he could to make sure the Cuban leader skipped the summit or left before Bush arrived.

Bush, Castaneda and Mexican President Vicente Fox denied the Cuban allegations. But Cuban officials vowed that unless Mexican authorities - and specifically Castaneda - drop their denials and publicly confirm Cuba's account, they will produce evidence showing who is lying.

"We ask for nothing more than a halt to the provocations, insults, lies and macabre plans by Mr. Castaneda against Cuba," said an editorial in yesterday's Granma, a state-run newspaper.

The attacks on Castaneda mark a new low in relations between Cuba and Mexico, the only Latin American country that did not break diplomatic ties with the island after its revolution in 1959.

A Fox administration source said officials will likely say little about the episode in the coming days in the hopes that it will blow over by the time most Mexicans return from Holy Week vacations.

The Mexican Senate, though, is demanding an explanation from Fox.

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