US drops Cuba from terrorism list
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The State Department formally dropped Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism on Friday after more than three decades.

The move was expected for weeks. President Obama first announced his plans to remove Cuba from the list in mid-April, and Congress did nothing to block that action during a 45-day review period.

Removing Cuba from the list, where it has been included since 1982, paves the way for diplomatic recognition between the two countries and the opening of embassies. Some trade barriers would also be lifted following Cuba's removal from the list, though lifting the full U.S. trade embargo requires congressional action.


It's the latest step in Obama's push to normalize relations between the two Cold War adversaries.

Obama made the decision following his meeting with Cuban leader Raúl Castro last month in Panama.

A report from Obama to Congress on April 14 certified the country had not supported international terrorism in the previous six months and agreed to not do so in the future.

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryChina emitted more greenhouse gasses than US, developed world combined in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process MORE made Cuba's removal from the list official on Friday.

"The rescission of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement Friday. 

"While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation," he added.

The White House said it was "pleased" with Cuba's removal from the list, reiterating remarks from the State Department expressing concern over Cuban actions they said fall outside of supporting terrorism. 

"We welcome today’s announcement by the Secretary of State, which is another step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between the United States and the Cuban people," national security council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan wrote in a White House blog post

Meehan argued renewed engagement with Cuba would allow the United States to push for internal change in the Communist island nation, and that it would also benefit U.S. business interests. 

"[A]s the United States begins to normalize our relations with Cuba, we have the potential to empower a nation and end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere," Obama said in a separate proclamation Friday announcing June 2015 as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month. 

In recent weeks, Obama administration officials have continued to rail against Cuba's human rights abuses.

Obama announced sweeping changes to normalize relations with Cuba in December, as well as an easing of some travel restrictions. 

Since then, U.S. and Cuban officials have moved to re-establish diplomatic relations and set up embassies, which could come soon. 

Last week they met for their fourth round of talks in Washington, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated Friday that officials still had issues to iron out. 

Specifically, the U.S. is seeking assurances that American diplomatic officials can travel outside Havana and meet those other than government officials, such as citizens and dissidents.

Earnest said last week that Obama "would relish the opportunity to visit the Island of Cuba, and Havana in particular" before he leaves office. 

Earnest said Friday a potential visit remains a "presidential aspiration," though did not say when a trip could occur.

Three nations remain on the terrorism list after Cuba's removal: Iran, Sudan and Syria. 
Updated at 4:10 p.m.