Cubans may be permitted to use cell phones

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MOSCOW, March 28 (RIA Novosti) - A Cuban telecommunications company intends to expand its services and make cell phones freely available, the Granma daily said on Friday.

Cuba presently has strict restrictions on cellular communications in the country and all Cubans have to receive special permission before buying and using a mobile telephone.

The daily said the Etecsa telecommunications company planned to initially introduce services in remote areas which were currently without any communications facilities at all. The daily said the use of the services would be shared to begin with.

Two weeks ago, Cuba's new president, Raul Castro, announced that he was planning to lift a country-wide ban, imposed in the 1990s, on the sale of electronic goods and household appliances.

Raul Castro pledged to ease restrictions on sales of electronic goods, including DVDs, computers, 19-inch and 24-inch TVs, pressure cookers and rice cookers, car alarms and microwaves.

The household appliances will be available to anybody who can pay. Air conditioning systems could become available next year, while toasters might go on sale in 2010.

The ban on many electric appliances came into force after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to severe energy problems in the Caribbean nation. Until recently, only foreigners and private companies were allowed to buy computers in Cuba and DVD players were still being seized at Havana international airport last year.

Fidel Castro, 81, announced on February 19 that he would step down as Cuba's president due to health problems. The leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and the man who outlasted nine hostile U.S. presidents, remains the head of the Communist Party.

Shortly after his election, Raul Castro said he was willing to introduce moderate economic reforms in Cuba, but insisted that he would not deviate from the path of socialism. The reforms may include revaluing the currency and lifting some state restrictions on private business.

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