Cuba is ready to begin a "respectful" political dialogue with the United States without preconditions, a senior foreign ministry official said in an interview published Monday.

"Cuba reaffirms its traditional position of holding a respectful dialogue with the United States government to resolve pending problems," Josefina Vidal, director of the ministry's North America department, told The Havana Reporter, a new official English-language weekly.

Vidal said that Cuba's "only requirements" for initiating dialogue with Washington "are that the meeting take place on the basis of equality, reciprocity and equality."

President Raul Castro has expressed on several occasions the willingness of Cuba to engage in dialogue and accept "the challenge of maintaining a normal relationship with the United States."

In the inaugural speech at April's 6th Congress of the governing Communist Party, Gen. Castro said that dialogue could be possible: "provided we can coexist in a civilized manner with our differences, on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs."

The United States and Cuba have not had diplomatic relations in half a century and Washington continues to enforce the economic embargo it imposed on the island in 1962.

With regard to The Havana Reporter, its aim "is to facilitate moving closer" to Cuba for visitors interested in staying current with life on the Caribbean island and with the main events in Latin America and the rest of the world, according to the state-run news agency Prensa Latina.

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