September 17, 2018 / 5:32 AM / in a month

Cuba's president says can't talk with Trump unless it's as equals

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in his first interview since taking office in April his government could not talk with U.S. President Donald Trump as long as Trump’s administration kept its “abnormal” attitude toward the Communist-run island.

FILE PHOTO: Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel attends a ceremony at the National Pantheon in Caracas, Venezuela May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

“We want to dialogue but it must be as equals,” Diaz-Canel said in the wide-ranging interview with Venezuela-based television station Telesur broadcast on Sunday evening, echoing his predecessor and mentor, Raul Castro.

“We do not accept impositions and we are not willing to make concessions,” he said.

Cuban-U.S. relations have deteriorated sharply since Trump took office and began partially rolling back the historic detente agreed by his predecessor Barack Obama after decades of hostility.

They have also worsened over what the United States says were a spate of health attacks on its diplomats based in Havana. Cuba denies any involvement.

“Cuba does not attack, Cuba defends, Cuba shares,” said Diaz-Canel, who referred many times throughout the interview to Fidel Castro, the late leader of the 1959 revolution, and his younger brother, Raul Castro.

Raul Castro, 87, remains head of the Communist Party until 2021 and is “like a father” to Diaz-Canel, according to the 58-year-old president who said they talk nearly every day.

Diaz-Canel praised Cuba’s long-standing alliance with Venezuela but also said he welcomed the presidential victory of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico that was “encouraging” for Latin America.

On the topic of a draft new constitution being debated at community meetings throughout Cuba, Diaz-Canel said the removal of the word “communism” did not mean Cuba was renouncing that aspiration.

The document, which should replace a Cold War-era constitution, still refers to socialism, which implies communism, he said.

Diaz-Canel said he supported the proposed change to the constitution to allow for same-sex marriage.

“I defend there being no kind of discrimination,” he said, although it was up to the Cuban people to decide whether to include the change.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank; Editing by Paul Tait

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