UN votes to lift US embargo on Cuba, for 23rd time

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - For the 23rd straight year, the United Nations voted Tuesday in favor of lifting the US embargo on Cuba, with Iran saying the ban was undeserved given Havana's help in fighting Ebola.

The UN General Assembly adopted the non-binding resolution on ending the five-decade embargo by a vote of 188 in favor, with two countries voting against: the United States and Israel.

The Pacific island-states of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands abstained. The outcome was the same as last year.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the 193-nation assembly that voting to lift the embargo showed "that the current serious problems facing humanity make it imperative to change our way of dealing with each other."

The economic damage inflicted on Cuba totals more than one trillion dollars, Rodriguez argued, warning that the human cost is on the rise.

About 77 percent of Cubans were born under the embargo regime, which causes hardship to families, he said.

"No honest person, whether in the United States or the world, could agree with the devastating consequences caused by the blockade," he said.

The minister said countries should cooperate to fight the Ebola outbreak and new security threats, making it necessary to "change our attitude" and seek cooperation for "the survival of humanity."

Cuba has sent some 250 doctors, nurses and other health care workers to West Africa to fight the Ebola epidemic, winning praise from the United States and other countries for its help.

Iranian Ambassador Hossein Dehghani called the embargo "undeserved" and said Cuba had shown it was a valued international player.

"Cuba's response to Ebola was and continues to be far more robust than many countries far wealthier than it -- and is a further proof the constructive role that Cuba plays in international affairs," he said.

The US representative to the debate, Ronald Godard, called the annual vote a "meaningless exercise" and said the United Nations should instead work to support the pro-democracy movement in Cuba.

"This annual exercise attempts, to no good end, to obscure some fundamental truths," he said.

"The Cuban government's own policies -- not any action of the US government -- are the greatest obstacle to Cuba's economic development," he said.

The United States imposed an economic embargo on communist Cuba in 1960, at the height of the Cold War.