Cuba offers to donate Classic money to Katrina aid

HAVANA -- Hours after U.S. baseball officials reapplied for
a permit that would allow Cuba to join next year's inaugural World
Baseball Classic, the island's communist government said Thursday
night it would donate any money received at the tournament to
hurricane victims.

Officials from Major League Baseball and the Major League
Baseball Players Association reapplied Thursday to the U.S.
Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, seeking
permission for Cuba to play in the 16-team tournament, scheduled
for March 3-20.

The permit is required because of U.S. laws and regulations
governing certain transactions with Cuba, and the Bush
administration last week denied the first request, seemingly
because Cubans would have received money.

"Although we have never competed for money, in order to offer
options the Cuban Baseball Federation would be willing for the
money associated with participation in the classic to go to those
displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans," a statement read
on Cuban government television said.

Fidel Castro said Friday that the Bush
administration was wrong to prohibit Cuba from sending a team to
the World Baseball Classic.

"He is very much a fool," the Cuban president said of Bush.
"He doesn't know who the Cuban baseball players are, or that they
are Olympic and world champions. If he knew, he would know
something about this country's government."

Castro mentioned the ongoing dispute during the second day of
regular sessions of the island's National Assembly.

Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said a new
application was submitted Thursday. The commissioner's office and
the union had said they planned to address government concerns and
ensure that no money would go from U.S. entities to the Cubans.

"OFAC turns around all license requests as quickly as they are
able to," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in an e-mail
to The Associated Press. "We don't comment on individual license

Antonio Munoz, a businessman who agreed to pay millions of
dollars to bring the games to the U.S. Caribbean territory,
was optimistic the decision would be overturned.

"All efforts are being made to get Cuba to come and participate
and I think we will succeed," Munoz told The Associated Press by
telephone from New York.