HAVANA — Barack Obama's call for action on climate change and his admission that rich nations have a particular responsibility to lead has received strong praise from an unusual source — U.S. nemesis Fidel Castro.
The former Cuban leader on Wednesday called the American president's speech at the United Nations "brave" and said no other American head of state would have had the courage to make similar remarks.
In a speech at the United Nations on Tuesday, Obama acknowledged that the United States had been slow to act on climate change, but said Washington was now prepared to be a full partner as the world confronts the threat.
He said developed nations that have caused much of the climate change the planet has suffered have a "responsibility to lead," but added that rapidly growing nations must do their part as well.
That admission of America's past errors "was without a doubt a brave gesture," Castro wrote in comments published by Cuban state-media Wednesday.
"It would only be fair to recognize that no other United States president would have had the courage to say what he said," the former Cuban leader continued.
Castro, 83, handed over power to his brother Raul in February 2008, but has continued to release frequent essays on current events which are published in state media under the title "Reflections of Comrade Fidel."
In Wednesday's edition, the former Cuban leader quoted extensively from Obama's speech, though he also criticized what he called America's aggressive military and economic foreign policy.
"Its hundreds of military bases installed in dozens of countries on all the continents, its aircraft carriers and naval fleet, its thousands of nuclear arms, its wars of conquest, its military industrial complex and its arms trading are not compatible with the survival of our species," he wrote.
U.S.-Cuban relations have thawed somewhat since Obama took office in January. The U.S. leader has loosened financial and travel restrictions on Americans with relatives on the island, and the two countries last week held talks on restarting direct mail service suspended since 1963.
Raul Castro has said he is open to meeting face-to-face with the U.S. leader on neutral ground, and that all subjects could be on the table, and Fidel has praised Obama as a smart and sincere man. That is quite a difference from Cuba's attitude toward former President George W. Bush, who was depicted on Havana billboards as a vampire.
But the warm words have so far failed to bring about concrete change on core issues.
Obama has left intact the 47-year trade embargo on the island, and U.S. officials have said for months that they would like to see the single-party, communist state accept some political, economic or social changes.
Cuba has repeatedly ruled out making any concessions in return for the lifting of the embargo.
Obama also was praised by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this month for canceling parts of a missile defense system that Moscow had viewed as a threat to its security. Putin called the move a "right and brave decision."
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