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Quid pro quo in the air as Cuba says it's ready to talk over jailed US contractor

HAVANA -- A senior Cuban diplomat said Wednesday her country is prepared to negotiate a solution in the case of a jailed American contractor, but is awaiting a U.S. response.

Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal also rejected allegations by the wife of 63-year-old Maryland native Alan Gross that her husband's health is failing after more than 2 1/2 years in custody.

“Cuba reiterates its willingness to talk with the United States government to find a solution in the case of Mr. Gross and continues to await an answer,” Vidal, who heads the ministry's Office of North American Affairs, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

She gave no details. It was the first time a Cuban official has hinted that a specific proposal has been made and indicated that the ball was in Washington's court.

Previously, senior officials in President Raul Castro's government have raised the case of five Cuban agents sentenced to long jail terms in the United States, though they have not spelled out publicly that they are seeking an exchange.

U.S. officials say privately, however, that Havana has made it increasingly clear they want a quid pro quo, something Washington has repeatedly rejected.

Jared Genser, a Washington-based attorney for the Gross family, said in a telephone interview he knows of no active proposal that the Cuban government has put forward for his client's release.

He said American officials had long made clear to the Cubans that trading Gross for the Cuban agents is a nonstarter.

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