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Cuba denies sending troops to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Cuba's government has denied reports that it has sent troops to Syria in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The reports had circulated on social media.

Last week the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies issued what it called an unconfirmed report from an unspecified source that Cuban troops had been seen in Syria "in support of Syria's dictator Assad and Russian involvement in that country." US news channel Fox News repeated the claims on Wednesday and said an unnamed US official had "confirmed" them.

On Saturday the Cuban government called the reports "irresponsible and unfounded."

Havana's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it "categorically denies and refutes the irresponsible and unfounded information regarding the supposed presence of Cuban troops in the Syrian Arab Republic."

On Thursday, a White House spokesman said the US government had seen no evidence to indicate the reports were true.

Cuba has recently

restored diplomatic relations with the US.

The socialist government has hosted

talks between the Colombian government and left wing guerrilla fighters

in an attempt to end a decades-long conflict.

In the 1970s and 1980s Cuba sent troops to Africa in support of leftist governments, but has limited its overseas engagements in recent years to medical and social projects - such as sending hundreds of medical workers to help combat the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.

Cuba enjoys friendly relations with Russia and Iran - both of whom support the al-Assad regime. Both Syria and Cuba are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of 120 countries which are not formally aligned with, or against any major power bloc. Its founding members were India, Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana and Yugoslavia and it was set up in 1961. The coordinating bureau of the NAM is in New York.

jm/bk (Reuters, AFP)

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