6pm deadline for Elian reunion

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ordered Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives to bring the 6-year-old boy to an airport this afternoon so he could be taken to a reunion with his father in Washington.

Reno delivered the ultimatum after taking the extraordinary step of coming to Miami to meet for 2 1/2 hours with the Cuban boy's relatives.

She failed to persuade them to end the wrenching 4 1/2-month custody struggle, and Elian's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, defiantly said he would not relinquish custody of the boy.

Reno told the family to bring Elian to the airport Thursday at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). She said a plane would take the boy, and whatever relatives wanted to come, to Washington for a retreat at a neutral site with the boy's Cuban father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. No Cuban diplomats would be present.

She said if the family did not show, "We will enforce the order," but she did not elaborate. Government sources have said the U.S. Justice Department was prepared to send U.S. marshals and immigration agents into the great-uncle's house to remove the boy.

Family lawyer, Manny Diaz, said he would seek a federal court injunction to block the government from instituting the order.

She said Reno and U.S. Immigration and Naturalisation Service Commissioner Doris Meissner had heard ample evidence during the meeting that Elian does not want to go back to Cuba but refused to take that into account.

Reno said she took everything she heard into consideration.

"She was very respectful and they were very honest," O'Laughlin said. "The pain of this family and their understanding of the pain of Juan Miguel was very evident. They have expressed over and over again their desire to be a loving family, whole again."

Reno said the Miami relatives indicated that Marisleysis, who considers herself a mother figure to Elian and has been hospitalised several times for stress and exhaustion, could not travel by plane. They presented alternatives such as inviting Juan Miguel to a reunion at O'Laughlin's house.

But "Everyone involved has felt that it would be dangerous for Juan Miguel to come to South Florida at this time," Reno said.

Elian and his relatives had left their politically charged Little Havana neighborhood to spend the day at O'Laughlin's gated home. They headed back home early Thursday, and 150 demonstrators gathered outside.

Elian, clinging to an inner tube, was rescued by two fishermen on Nov. 25, after his mother and 10 other Cubans drowned when their boat sank.

His Miami relatives have been caring for him ever since and have been fighting in court for him to have an asylum hearing. But the Clinton administration has ordered Elian back to his father in Cuba, saying only he can speak for the boy on immigration matters.

A U.S. judge affirmed that decision, but the family has appealed.

Elian's father, who met with Reno after coming to America last week, remained in Bethesda, Maryland. He indicated Wednesday - the day after a meeting in Washington with the Miami relatives was scheduled and abruptly canceled - that he was through negotiating.

Later, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, his wife and their infant son were guests of honour at a reception at the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington.

In Havana, Ricardo Alarcon, the senior Cuban official who has advised the father, criticised the Miami relatives for delaying the transfer, saying they were showing "a total lack of respect for American society," and "making fun of the U.S. government."

If Elian's relatives were hoping for a quieter setting in Miami Beach, they only partially succeeded.

While Reno met with the family, dozens of police and federal agents kept watch over about 200 demonstrators. Several waved a Cuban flag bigger than a king-sized bedsheet.

Even before Elian arrived at the house, a crowd chanted "Elian! Elian!" in anticipation. The demonstrators were forced to keep a greater distance than on Lazaro Gonzalez's narrow street. Police kept them across a four-lane road, behind a median and a barricade.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?