Castro says U.S. seeking pretext for Cuba attack
HAVANA -- Fidel Castro accused the United States of wanting to attack Cuba, speaking at a May Day celebration on Thursday that aimed to defend the island's socialist system against criticism from abroad.
"In Miami and Washington they are now discussing where, how and when Cuba will be attacked," the Cuban president told a crowd of thousands gathered for the celebration in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution.
"I want to convey a message to the world and the American people: We do not want the blood of Cubans and Americans to be shed in a war," he said.
The crowd responded with cries of "Whatever it takes, Fidel!" while waving handheld Cuban flags. One group hoisted an effigy of President Bush that read, "Bush: Don't mess with Cuba."
Castro spoke for less than two hours -- brief for the 76-year-old president. He said U.S. officials "provoke and encourage" attacks like the recent hijackings of Cuban planes and boats.
There was no immediate response from the U.S. State Department. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said recently that "there are no plans for military action against Cuba."
The gathering came two weeks after the firing-squad executions of three men convicted of terrorism for trying to hijack a Cuban ferry full of passengers to the states.