Carter Waiting for Administration's Permission to Visit Cuba

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

( - If former President Jimmy Carter wants to visit Cuba, he will have to carry with him "a very direct and straightforward message" to the Cuban leadership, urging them to take a new stance on human rights.

"In order to have human rights in Cuba, it's important for Fidel Castro to allow democracy to have root, to stop repression, to stop imprisonments, to bring freedom to the people of Cuba," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday.

Last Friday, Carter said he expected to receive "tacit approval" from the Bush administration to visit Cuba later this year.

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro extended a formal invitation to Carter to visit sometime this year but the former president said would accept the invitation only if it's okayed by the administration.

"I expect to get their tacit approval, not their blessing," Carter said during a media luncheon at the Carter Center in Atlanta. "We can't go, obviously, without the permission of the government.

"My understanding is that they will give that approval," he said.

If Carter does go, he will be the first American president (former or current) to make such a trip since Castro took over the country in 1959.

Fleischer said the Treasury Department, which issues permits for Americans to travel to Cuba, is reviewing former President Jimmy Carter's request to travel to Cuba.

He added that Carter would be expected to honor the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control's decision.

"The law is clear, the law will be obeyed," Fleischer said.

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