Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, on a Christmas visit to Cuba, indicated Saturday that Washington should ease its economic boycott against Havana, saying many Cuban children were suffering because the two nations had not bridged their differences.

Jackson, who visited the communist-ruled Caribbean island in 1984, said after talks and a Christmas lunch with Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina that improved ties were in the interests of both countries.He criticized Washington's 31-year economic embargo against Cuba, saying it was out of line with U.S. policy toward the rest of the world, was leaving U.S. business out as Cuba expanded its trade ties elsewhere, and was not supported by the international community.

"We must find a way to end to the hostility. We must build bridges," Jackson told reporters. "If the PLO and Israel can build a bridge, if South Africa and the ANC can build a bridge, if Britain and Northern Ireland can build a bridge, the U.S. and Cuba can build a bridge."

Referring to Cuba's current severe economic crisis, which Havana blames in part on the U.S. embargo, Jackson added:

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"I am very concerned about the children. Many of them did not have lights on Christmas Eve, did not have presents on Christmas Day."

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