USA expels Cuban diplomats from embassy in Washington

US expels Cuban diplomats following Havana attacks

U.S. Government has ordered the expulsion of 15 diplomats from Cuba's embassy in Washington following recent move by the Donald Trump administration to pull over half of its diplomats out of Havana. The secretary of state clarified that he meant to "maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba", even amid the seemingly tense investigation.

"The decision was made due to Cuba's failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention", the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said in a written statement. "This is to ensure that there is an equitable impact to our embassies' ability to operate, and to underscore to the Cubans that they must take more action to protect our people on the ground", the official said.

The State Department gave Cuba's ambassador a list Tuesday of 15 names and ordered them out within one week, officials said, in a move that aims to "ensure equity" between each nation's embassy staffing.

The attacks, initially described as emanating from some sort of acoustic device, have affected at least 22 United States embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.

Symptoms of these mysterious attacks have included hearing loss, dizziness and cognitive issues.

Mr Tillerson said the U.S. is maintaining diplomatic relations and will co-operate with Cuba while the investigation continues.

The Cuban diplomats being expelled will not be deemed "persona non grata", officials said, a designation that would prevent them from ever returning to US soil.

A US investigation into the matter is still ongoing.

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As US investigators struggle to determine what's causing the illnesses, Cuba hawks in Congress have not waited to draw conclusions and immediately demanded the expulsion of all Cuban diplomats.

In August, the State Department said it was confident that the attacks had stopped but later said that its Havana staff is still at risk.

The U.S.is "expelling" the Cuban diplomats but is not declaring them 'persona non grata, ' a designation that would prevent them from ever returning.

The U.S.is removing more than half its diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Havana and warning Americans not to visit Cuba, saying it is for their own safety after a string of mysterious injuries.

The ministry said United States "specialised agencies" visited Havana three times, in June, August and September.

The Associated Press reported that Cuban official called the American response "irresponsible", and "hasty".

Expelling Cuban diplomats does not reflect an assignment of blame, a senior State Department official told reporters ahead of the announcement.

Canada and the United States have responded in drastically different ways to weird attacks on diplomatic personnel in Havana, with the Americans pursuing a hardline approach that escalated Tuesday. During a speech at the UN General Assembly last month, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez warned Trump not to let the issue be "politicized".

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