US defends decision to kick out Cuban diplomats

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has given Cuba a list of 15 of its diplomats that must leave the U.S. within seven days.

A State Department official says the U.S. is “expelling” the Cuban diplomats. But the U.S. isn’t declaring them “persona non grata,” a designation that would prevent them from ever returning.

The official says the U.S. isn’t blaming Cuba for attacks on Americans in Havana and is maintaining diplomatic relations. But the official says the decision was taken because Cuba has failed to protect American diplomats on its soil.

The official also says that the American diplomats the U.S. is withdrawing from its embassy in Havana will be out of Cuba by the end of this week. The official briefed reporters on a conference call on condition of anonymity.