CUBAN government denies Elian will travel to the United Nations

Thursday, September 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HAVANA (AP) _ The Cuban government denied Thursday that Elian Gonzalez will travel to the United Nations for a conference on children, and promised that the 7-year-old boy would never be used for political purposes.

Time Magazine last week reported that Cuban officials were deciding whether to send the boy at the center of last year's international custody battle to a U.N. children's summit Sept. 19-20 in New York.

In a letter published Thursday in the Communist Party newspaper Granma, Cuba's Foreign Ministry called the article ``unfounded and irresponsible.''

``The ministry wishes to express that in no moment has there been any consideration of Elian traveling to the U.N. event,'' the letter said, adding that the boy has ``never been used nor will become a propaganda or international political tool.''

Also, during an event to mark the beginning of the school year, Cuban President Fidel Castro called the report ``the most ridiculous thing in the world,'' adding that ``the protection of the boy comes before everything else.''

Elian's father denied his son might travel to the United Nations while taking the third-grader to his first day of classes on Monday. Cuban officials in Washington have also disputed the report.

Elian was rescued off the Florida coast in November 1999 after his mother and most of the other passengers traveling illegally from Cuba to the United States died when their boat capsized.

The boy was temporarily placed with relatives in Miami who, backed by other Cuban exiles, launched an international custody battle to keep the child in the United States.

In response, Castro organized nearly daily rallies to demand that Elian be returned to Cuba and reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Elian came back to the Communist island on June 28, 2000, after a seven-month legal and political battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court.