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U.S., Cuba hold talks over jailed American subcontractor Gross

The Obama administration's top diplomat on Latin America has met with Cuba's foreign minister to press for the release of a U.S. citizen jailed in Havana since December -- the latest in a recent string of high-level bilateral sessions.

Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez met in New York during a U.N. gathering last month, the State Department's top spokesman said Monday.

The previously unknown session was the most recent in a string of meetings between officials of the two countries, which have not had full diplomatic relations since the early 1960s.

``The meeting was to encourage the release of Alan Gross,'' Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary for public affairs, told reporters during a briefing in Washington.

Asked if Havana gave any sign that Gross would be freed, Crowley said, ``I'm not aware that they did.''

He added: ``We would hope that it would happen today, but that's up to the Cuban government.''

Crowley gave no further details but a senior State Department official told The Associated Press the meeting was brief and cordial and added that there were no significant discussions on other matters.

Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was arrested Dec. 3 after delivering satellite communications equipment to what U.S. officials describe as Jewish groups in Cuba.

A resident of Potomac, Md., the 60-year-old Gross has not been officially charged, though several Cuban officials have alleged that he was involved in U.S. intelligence activities against Cuba.

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