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Clinton welcomes reported deal on Cuban prisoners

Cuba promises to release 52 political prisoners - welcomed news for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participates in the Close Strategic Partnership discussion with Ukraine Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, Friday, July 2, 2010, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Drew Angerer)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday welcomed Cuba's reported promise to free 52 political prisoners.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department, Clinton said the Obama administration is encouraged by the apparent agreement, but she did not comment on its potential impact on U.S.-Cuban relations.

"We welcome this," she said during a photo-taking session with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. "We think that's a positive sign. It's something that is overdue but nevertheless very welcome."

The Obama administration has said it hoped to see an improvement in Cuba's human rights record before easing the United States' 48-year-old trade embargo against the island.

Clinton said she had discussed the prisoner release deal by phone Wednesday evening with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos after he attended a meeting in Havana between President Raul Castro and Havana's archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The freeing of 52 political prisoners would slash the number held in Cuba by nearly a third. And it would be the communist-led island's largest release of dissidents since Pope John Paul II visited there in 1998.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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