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US moves to open up business with Cuba, ease embargo

[WASHINGTON] The United States on Friday issued regulations easing restrictions on American companies seeking to do business in Cuba and opening up travel in the latest move to weaken the US trade embargo amid warming relations with the Communist country.

The rules target travel, telecommunications, Internet-based services, business operations, banking and remittances, and allow US companies to establish a presence in Cuba.

"A stronger, more open US-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike," US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement.

"By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba," he said.

The move comes as Washington and Havana move toward normal relations between the former Cold War foes for the first time in more than half a century.

Friday's regulations were in addition to others Mr Obama announced in January to ease the 53-year-old embargo against Cuba.

Under the rules, companies can open up offices, stores and warehouses in Cuba. They also allow the opening up of telecommunications and Internet services between the nations.

Although they do not change who can travel to Cuba, the rules do ease movement of authorized travelers there by licensing transportation providers. They also lift the cap on remittances and allow them to open and maintain bank accounts there.

The regulations also increase educational opportunities by allowing Internet-based courses and further expand humanitarian efforts by allowing disaster relief.

REUTERS