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HAVANA: Cuban President Raul Castro said on Thursday that his government is willing to mend fences with bitter Cold War foe the United States and sit down to discuss anything, as long as it is a conversation between equals.    

At the end of a Revolution Day ceremony marking the 59th anniversary of a failed uprising against a military barracks, Castro grabbed the microphone for apparently impromptu remarks.

He echoed previous statements that no topic is off-limits, including US concerns about democracy, freedom of the press and human rights on the island, as long as it is a conversation between equals.

''Any day they want, the table is set. This has already been said through diplomatic channels,” Castro said. “If they want to talk, we will talk.''

Washington would have to be prepared to hear Cuba's own complaints about the treatment of those issues in the United States and its European allies, he added.

''We are nobody's colony, nobody's puppet,” Castro said.    Washington and Havana have not had diplomatic relations for five decades.

The July 26 national holiday was often used to make major announcements when Castro's older brother Fidel was president, but there were none on Thursday.

The main celebration kicked off at sunrise with music and speeches at a plaza in the eastern province of Guantanamo, home to the US naval base of the same name.

The American presence in Guantanamo is a sore point for Havana.—AP


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