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Hollande meets Fidel Castro during historic Cuba visit

Hollande meets Fidel Castro during historic Cuba visit

Havana: French President Francois Hollande has met retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana, Spanish news agency Efe reported.

The meeting on Monday lasted about 40 minutes, a French diplomat told Efe.

After meeting the 88-year-old Castro, Hollande paused to place a floral wreath at the monument to Cuban founding father Jose Marti at the Plaza of the Revolution, before going on to meet President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's younger brother.

Earlier on Monday at the University of Havana, Hollande stressed his country's support for an end to the 52-year-old US economic embargo of Cuba and the harm that it has done.

Hollande arrived in Cuba with a large business delegation, including representatives of Pernod Ricard, Accor, Air France, Carrefour, Orange and several banks.

Corporate representatives met with locals on Monday, and concluded agreements in both energy and tourism sectors.

Plans are now on to set up two hotels in Cayo Coco.

French oil company Total signed a contract for risk exploration and production sharing in a Special Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which Cuba estimates holds oil reserves equivalent to 22,000 million barrels.

France, the third largest European investor in Cuba, conducted trade with the island worth $200.5 million in 2014.

In addition to economic ties, Hollande's visit is to promote cultural, academic and scientific exchanges. Four cooperation agreements were signed between French and Cuban universities and research centres.

Hollande also inaugurated the new Havana headquarters of the Alliance Francaise, where around 12,000 Cubans study, the highest per capita level of French students anywhere in the non-Francophone world.

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