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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Europe Seeks Harsh Measures Against U.S. Policy on Cuba

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The United States' European allies, angry at U.S. legislation that punishes them for doing business in Cuba, looked for ways Monday to strike back if President Bill Clinton does not waive enforcement of the measure.

The target of their anger is the Helms-Burton law, passed in March to provide relief to Americans who lost property in Cuba when Fidel Castro seized power 35 years ago. One section of the bill allows the president to waive enforcement for six months at a time.

"We don't believe the United States penalizing its allies is going to help the cause of democratic reform in Cuba," British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said as the 15 European Union foreign ministers gathered to debate possible retaliatory action.

Sir Leon Brittan, EU vice president and commissioner for trade, was expected to outline Europe's options. Among them:

?Take the matter to a World Trade Organization dispute panel, since efforts at an amicable settlement have been fruitless.

?Impose national measures, such as requiring visas for American travelers to EU countries, which could be painful at the height of the travel season.

?EU and national legislation to provide legal protection for EU companies hit by the Helms-Burton law.

"This is a matter that goes to the very heart of the relationship between the United States and other countries, not just European countries, also its own neighbors in North America," Rifkind said.

No action by the EU is likely until after Clinton makes his decision on enforcement. He has until the end of the day Tuesday, EU officials said.

Helms-Burton was passed after Cuban fighters shot down two private planes flown by Cuban-Americans. It allows U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies using property in Cuba confiscated from American owners in 1959.