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White House to ease Cuba travel regulations

The Obama administration today will announce it plans to ease some restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, including possibly expanding the number of U.S. airports where charter flights to the island depart.

The key change will be an expansion of religious, educational and cultural travel to Cuba. And President Barack Obama will restore the broader "people-to-people" category of travel, which allows "purposeful" visits to increase contacts between U.S. and Cuban citizens.

The changes are part of the administration's "effort to support the Cuban people's desire to freely determine their own future," a senior administration official said in a background briefing.

Tourist travel to Cuba will still be illegal, the administration official said. And the official dismissed speculation that the administration delayed the changes until after the November election because Democrats in Florida feared it would hurt them among Cuban-American voters.

"There were a number of false rumors, the largest that this was imminent on a number of occassions," the senior administration official said. "This package of changes was the result of an interagency process that has concluded only in the last couple of days. They are rolling out now that they are ready to be rolled out.''

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