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LISTEN TO OUR SIDE, CUBA ENTREATS U.N.

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Cuba asked the U.N. Security Council Monday to delay any action in wake of the downing of two American-owned planes until its foreign minister arrives to explain Cuba's side of the incident.

Security Council members met Monday to consider a U.S. request that the council formally condemn Saturday's attack in which a Cuban MiG-29 shot down two unarmed Cessnas operated by a Cuban exile group, Brothers to the Rescue.In Havana, Cuba said Monday the U.S. government is lying about its version of the incident and announced that one of the downed pilots was in custody. The comments came in a dispatch by Prensa Latina, the Cuban news agency.

"We have a pilot with us from that group of violators that has undertaken so many actions against our country," the report said, monitored in Mexico City. "This pilot knows a great deal."

It gave no further details on the pilot.

The statement, attributed to Cuba's Foreign Relations Ministry, scoffed at suggestions that Brothers to the Rescue was doing humanitarian work, saying instead it was a "terrorist Mafia that has worked out repugnant and bloody plans against our people."

"We are ready to discuss these issues with Mr. (Warren) Christopher and the Security Council wherever they wish," the statement added.

Several council ambassadors called Cuba's shooting of the plans callous and unjustified, but it appeared there was little support for tough measures against Cuba.

Russia called on the United States Monday to adopt "concrete measures" to prevent "deliberate violations" of Cuban airspace, while America's European allies called for "moderation and restraint" by both sides.

Cuba's acting U.N. ambassador, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, met before the council meeting with U.S. envoy Madeleine Albright, the current council president.

Afterward, he told reporters that Cuba offered proof that the planes were attacked over Cuban waters. He said he asked Albright to defer any council decision until Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina arrives Tuesday.

He said Albright would relay his request to the rest of the 15-member council.

The Clinton administration has stopped short of asking the council to adopt a legally binding resolution condemning Saturday's attack. Instead, it proposed the council adopt a "presidential statement" declaring "there is no justification" for the "unlawful use of force."

In diplomatic parlance, presidential statements carry less weight than resolutions.

In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin said Monday that Russia regretted the incident "and especially the loss of life." But he added the council should hear Cuba's side as well.

The 15-nation European Union, meanwhile, issued a statement today which "strongly condemns the shooting down of two civilian aircraft" and "calls for moderation and restraint for all involved in the handling of this incident."

The council Sunday heard U.S. claims that the Cessnas were over international waters when they were shot down a few miles north of Cuban territory.