CNN nearing approval for launching Cuban bureau

WASHINGTON- The Cable News Network seems poised to win approval for establishing a news bureau in Cuba almost three decades after the last U.S. outlet was expelled.

CNN has received the greenlight from the Cuban government and is now awaiting approval from the Clinton administration for its 2-month-old license application to operate in Cuba.

Biding time

The administration has been biding its time, waiting for a consensus to emerge before making a decision. Cuba is a politically sensitive subject and the administration could run the risk of alienating key constituencies if the issue is not handled carefully.

There is no strong opposition to the idea, and the issue is “moving along,” said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity and closely follows Cuban policy.

Tom Johnson, CNN chairman and CEO, said, “We are guardedly optimistic.” CNN has told the administration it wants a decision by the end of the month.

There has been some grumbling about allowing Cuban president Fidel Castro to dictate the terms of the re-entry into Cuba of American news organizations. But there also is hostility to the idea of U.S. government-issued licenses for activities guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The AP bureau in Havana was shut down in 1969 but Cuba has allowed AP reporters and correspondents from other American news outlets to make periodic reporting trips – usually lasting a week or so – to the island.

Cuban officials say more than 90% of all visa applications from American reporters are approved.

The Cuban foreign ministry said Thursday that the authorization for CNN did not imply that other news organizations were specifically excluded, the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina said.

The agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Migel Alfonso as saying at a weekly news conference that the permission granted to CNN was based on more than 10 years of relations of mutual respect between Cuba and the network.

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