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Cuba Says Will Release Nearly 3,000 Prisoners In Amnesty

The communist-led Cuban government has announced plans to release nearly 3,000 prisoners in the coming days for "humanitarian reasons."

Cuban President Raul Castro said a scheduled visit to Cuba this spring by Roman Catholic Pope Benedict was among the reasons for the amnesty for some 2,900 prisoners.

Castro said 86 foreign prisoners from 25 countries who committed crimes in Cuba would be among those freed.

Cuban officials said, however, that the prisoners to be pardoned do not include American Alan Gross, who is serving 15 years in prison.

Cuba has accused him of espionage, but the U.S. has said previously that he was detained while helping set up Internet access for Jewish groups in Cuba and should be released immediately.

Pope Benedict has said recently that he plans to visit Cuba before the Easter holiday in April.

compiled from agency reports