WASHINGTON — Cuba further distanced itself from terrorist activities last year but the U.S. government still considers it a state sponsor of terrorism along with Syria, Iran and Sudan, according to the State Department’s annual report.
The report for 2012, released Thursday, says the government in Cuba last year reduced support for Basque separatists in Southern Europe, joined a regional group that seeks to block terrorism financing, and sponsored peace talks between Colombia and an armed rebel group.
The report finds “no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”
Countries listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism face economic and political sanctions, including U.S. opposition to any aid from the International Monetary Fund and other major financial institutions.
The report says there was a sharp uptick in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including attacks or attempted attacks in India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya.
Critics contend that Cuba’s inclusion on the list is not justified and reflects the views of members of Congress who are fiercely opposed to the communist leaders in Havana. State Department officials are not considering delisting Cuba, which has been under a U.S. economic embargo since 1962.
“The report makes it clear that the State Department doesn’t really believe that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Geoff Thale, program director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a liberal advocacy group. “Cuba is clearly on the terrorist list for political reasons.”
Cuba still shelters about two dozen members of the separatist group Basque Homeland and Freedom, or ETA, one of the groups on the terrorist list, according to the report. But Havana has been reducing its support for the group and no longer provides it with travel documents, the report says.
Cuba also has provided haven for members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, another organization on the terrorist list. But in November, Cuba began hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels.
Washington had faulted Cuba for doing too little to prevent money laundering and international terrorist financing. But last year Cuba joined the Financial Action Task Force of South America, an intergovernmental group that seeks to enforce U.S.-supported standards on such illicit activities.
Cuba’s shift reflects changes in the country’s leadership and a preoccupation with domestic economic problems, analysts say.
The State Department added three groups to the list: Jemmah Anshorut Tauhid of Indonesia, the Abdallah Azzam Brigades of Lebanon and the Arabian peninsula and the Haqqani network of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It removed one group from the list, the Mujahedin Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group based primarily in Iraq.