• Viva Shaq! Obama names hoops legend as Cuba envoy

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    WASHINGTON: Basketball fanatic Barack Obama named legendary center Shaquille O’Neal as sports envoy to Cuba on Friday, in a new sign of thawing ties between Washington and Havana.

    When the imposing seven-foot one-inch player was dominating courts for the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat in Florida he was just a short hop from the island state.

    But, like other Americans, he was separated from his fans in communist Cuba by the US embargo on its economy and decades of Cold War hostility between the neighbors.

    The United States and Cuba finally restored ties last year and officials from both countries are gingerly negotiating a new relationship, even as parts of the embargo fall away.

    In the latest stage in the rapprochement, the retired baller will travel to Cuba from June 24 to 28, meet young people, talks sport and business, and visit cultural sites. AFP

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