Castro says Spain's Aznar sought to bomb Serb media

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HAVANA, Sep 30 (Reuters) Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused Spain's former prime minister today of recommending that Serbian media be bombed during the war in Kosovo, publishing what he said was a transcript of a talk Jose Maria Aznar had with a US official at the time.

Aznar's conservative Popular Party was stung last week by publication of a compromising conversation Aznar had with US President George W Bush just before the Iraq war. Castro did not say how he obtained his transcript.

Castro remains in seclusion after abdominal surgeries over the last 14 months for an unknown ailment.

The now frail revolutionary, who is 81, occasionally appears in videos and photographs and has taken to writing essays for the state-run media as his younger brother Raul Castro runs the country.

In the official Juventud Rebelde newspaper today, Castro published what he said was a transcript of an Aznar conversation about strategy during NATO's bombing of Serbian forces in 1999 to force them to stop attacking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Aznar also speaks disparagingly in the transcript about then French President Jacques Chirac. ''When I want to have a good time with Chirac, I start by telling him those Americans are really horrible,'' he says in the transcript. Castro did not explain how or when he obtained the transcript and does not identify the US official or publish the US official's part of the conversation.

Castro had claimed previously to have a transcript of a conversation between former US President Bill Clinton and Aznar.

He says Aznar in the new transcript discusses the possibility of a ground war if NATO's bombing campaign fails, urging a stepped-up air campaign. ''My idea is that to win this war communications must be cut between the Belgrade government and the people. It's vital to cut all Serbian communications, radio, television and telephone,'' he is quoted as saying.

Spain's relations with Cuba reached a breaking point under Aznar.

His Popular Party opposes the new Socialist government's efforts to improve relations with the Communist island.

Castro had accused Aznar before of wanting to bomb the media. He first made the charge after Aznar's conservative government led European Union protests over the jailing of 75 Cuban dissidents in 2003.

Castro introduced the transcript today by repeating his earlier accusation that Aznar told Clinton on April 13, 1999, ''I do not understand why we still have not bombed Serbian radio and television.'' That was also based on an alleged transcript that Castro said he had.

Castro wrote in today's article that he would publish more ''public and confidential'' materials in forthcoming essays.

REUTERS RS RAI2136

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