Medvedev, Castro Talk Cooperation

ReutersMedvedev walking with Raul Castro during a ceremony in Havana last week on his visit to the former Cold War ally.
HAVANA -- President Dmitry Medvedev met with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro on Friday, discussing Guantanamo Bay and hopes for a multipolar world with Cuba's former leader during a tour of Latin America aimed at raising Moscow's presence in the region.

Medvedev spent hours talking and sightseeing with President Raul Castro before meeting privately with his 82-year-old older brother.

Medvedev said he was happy with his visit when he left the island Friday evening on a flight from the beach resort of Varadero, east of Havana, Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency reported.

"We have defined what we are going to do next, we have cleared up everything regarding credits and in Russia we will await President Raul Castro's visit," Prensa Latina quoted Medvedev as saying. The news agency offered no details about what had been defined and cleared up.

In an essay released hours after the meeting with Medvedev, Fidel Castro wrote that he emphasized to him Cuba's demand for the return of "up to the last square meter" of land occupied by the U.S. military base at Guantanamo.

"No country could understand that policy better than Russia, constantly threatened by the same adversary of peace," Castro added, referring to U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in Europe.

In the essay, which appeared on the government web site Cubadebate.cu, the older Castro said he and Medvedev also discussed the need for a "multipolar world."

Earlier Friday, Medvedev and Raul Castro laid a wreath at a monument to Soviet soldiers who died while serving in Cuba in the early 1960s, a symbol of Cuba's once-prominent part in the communist bloc and the history of its ties to Russia.

Russian officials deny that Medvedev's four-nation trip is meant to provoke the United States, but the chat with Fidel Castro capped meetings with Washington's staunchest opponents in the region.

Medvedev toured a visiting Russian warship on Thursday with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and earlier met with Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, saying Russia might participate in a socialist trade bloc founded by Chavez and Cuba.

Medvedev also signed deals with Brazil and Peru, part of an effort to strengthen Russia's political, economic and military connections across a region long dominated by U.S. influence.

"We visited states that no Russian leader, and no Soviet leader, ever visited," he told reporters. "This means one thing: that attention simply was not paid to these countries."

Medvedev's Latin America tour is in some ways a response to U.S. moves in eastern and central Europe, where Russia sees its own security threatened by U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in former Soviet satellite states.

Medvedev said he and Raul Castro had discussed economic and "military-technical cooperation" -- apparently arms sales -- "as well as security and regional cooperation."

Raul Castro, 77, served as Cuba's defense minister for nearly five decades, working alongside Soviet military officials. A steadfast communist, he often visited the Soviet Union.