US rejects Cuba prisoner swap

The United States said that contractor Alan Gross held by Havana was not a spy.

Washington: The United States has rejected the idea of freeing Cuban nationals in return for contractor Alan Gross, saying the jailed American held by Havana was not a spy.

A Cuban diplomat, in a letter released on Tuesday, said Cuba was ready to find a "humanitarian solution" on Gross in return for a "reciprocal" gesture of releasing five Cubans imprisoned on charges of spying in the United States.

"An exchange for any of the members of the Cuban five is not possible," State Department spokesman William Ostick said.

"Their cases aren`t comparable and the Cuban five were convicted in federal court and are serving their sentences," he said. "Alan Gross is not a spy."

"We continue to call on the Cuban government to release Alan Gross," he said.

Gross was found guilty in March of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity" of Cuba and sentenced to 15 years in prison for delivering laptops and communications equipment to Cuba`s small Jewish community under a State Department contract.

US visitors have said that Gross has lost considerable weight since he was first jailed two years ago and the 62-year-old is said to suffer from several medical conditions.

The United States in 1998 arrested five Cubans who were later sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

One of those Cubans, Rene Gonzalez, was freed from a US prison last year after serving 13 years on spy charges. He has been in an undisclosed location since leaving a Florida prison.