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Friday, December 11, 2009

Castro accuses Obama of cynicism over Nobel prize

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized US President Barack Obama on Wednesday for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize as he steps up the US war effort in Afghanistan by deploying more troops.

Castro said just two months ago that it was "a positive measure" for Obama to be awarded the prize by the Nobel Committee, a decision that stunned the White House when it was announced in October.

Obama will frame the war in Afghanistan as part of a wider pursuit for peace when he accepts the prize in Oslo on Thursday, a US official said.

But Castro, who has generally written positively about Obama, was more critical in a column published in state-run media.

"Why did Obama accept the Nobel Peace Prize when he'd already decided to fight the Afghanistan war to the last? He wasn't obliged to commit a cynical act," Castro wrote.

"The president of the United States doesn't say a word about the hundreds of thousands of people, including children and innocent elderly people, who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, adding that Washington's current policy is "the same as Bush's."

Castro, 83, ran Cuba for almost 50 years after taking power in a 1959 revolution but was sidelined by illness and handed over the presidency to younger brother Raul Castro last year.

The elder Castro has been seen only in occasional photos and videos since having surgery for an undisclosed intestinal ailment in July 2006. But he still has a behind-the-scenes role in government and keeps a high profile through his writings.

Climate change has been a prominent theme in his columns, and in Wednesday's article he said rich countries should make the "maximum sacrifice" at UN climate talks that began this week in Copenhagen.

December 11, 2009