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Obama - no decision yet on removing Cuba from terror sponsor list

By Matt Spetalnick

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday that the U.S. State Department had completed its review of whether to remove Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism but that he had not received a recommendation yet from his advisers.

Speaking in Jamaica, where he is on a short visit, Obama said he would not announce a Cuba decision on Thursday. He said he would wait to receive recommendations from White House advisers before doing so.

Removing Cuba from the list would clear a major obstacle in the effort to restore diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, paving the way for the re-opening of embassies that have been shut for 50 years, and signal momentum in ending American's isolation from the Communist island nation.

"That review has been completed at the State Department. It is now forwarded to the White House. Our inter-agency team will go through the entire thing and then present it to me with a recommendation. That hasn't happened yet," Obama said.

"I won't make a formal announcement today about what those recommendations are," he said.

Obama ordered the review after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on Dec. 17 and has vowed to act quickly once he receives the recommendation.

Obama did not signal how he was leaning on the issue but his previous statements have suggested that he will likely approve taking Cuba off the list.

Cuba was added to the list of terrorism sponsors -- a distinction it has shared with Iran, Sudan and Syria -- in 1982, when it was aiding Marxist insurgencies in Colombia and elsewhere.

After his stay in Jamaica, Obama is travelling to Panama for a summit with Latin American leaders including Cuban President Raul Castro.

The gathering is the first since Obama launched an effort to re-start U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba last year.

(Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Emily Stephenson and Jason Szep)

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