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US issues Cuba a license to play

NEW YORK -- The Cubans will be allowed to participate in the inaugural World Baseball Classic after the US government reversed course yesterday and issued the special license necessary for the communist nation to play in the 16-team tournament.

Baseball's first application was denied in mid-December by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, but the commissioner's office and the players' association reapplied Dec. 22 after Cuba said it would donate any profits it receives to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

''The president wanted to see it resolved in a positive way," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in an e-mail to the Associated Press. ''Our concerns were centered on making sure that no money was going to the Castro regime and that the World Baseball Classic would not be misused by the regime for spying. We believe the concerns have been addressed."

The license was required by 45-year-old American sanctions against Cuba designed to prevent Fidel Castro's government from receiving US currency.

After the initial rejection, the International Baseball Federation threatened to withdraw its sanction of the tournament if Cuba was not allowed to participate.

''Everybody involved in the tournament wanted the best teams in the world to be involved, and certainly Cuba is one of those teams," US manager Buck Martinez said.

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