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Cuba's Castro concerned over "illegal" activity at U.S. mission

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By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA, May 12 (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro said on Tuesday he was concerned about "illegal" training for dissidents at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, an issue he raised with U.S. President Barack Obama in talks on restoring diplomatic ties.

Cuba and the United States are working to re-establish diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961, but a number of differences still need to be worked out including a U.S. request for freedom of movement for its diplomats in Cuba.

Castro spoke with Obama last month at a regional summit in Panama, the first meeting of the leaders of both countries in nearly 60 years.

"What I told them (the Americans), concretely to the president, what most concerns me is that they continue doing illegal things ... for example, graduating independent journalists," Castro told reporters at Havana's international airport upon seeing off French President Francois Hollande after an official visit.

"They give them I don't know how many classes, on screen, in teleconferences from the United States. I don't know if they give them a diploma and of course they give them their corresponding monthly payment," Castro said.

Existing embassies in Havana and Washington were downgraded to interests sections and will be christened as embassies once diplomatic ties are restored.

The U.S. interests section has offered classes in journalism, English and how to use the Internet. Cuba sees them as an attempt to undermine the country and meddle in its internal affairs, which would be a violation of international conventions on diplomacy.

Cuba tightly controls its state-owned media and blocks websites from independent journalists, who are typically critics of the one-party political system and denied official press credentials. (Editing by Ted Botha)

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