Republicans go on attack over Elian home raid

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The Independent US

The US Attorney General, Janet Reno, has "no regrets whatsoever" about ordering the armed raid that secured the return of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his father, Juan Miguel. Ms Reno, facing criticism from Congressional Republicans, said she had tried her level best to avoid taking the boy by force "and if I bent over backwards, so be it".

She said she had no choice after the Miami relatives gave no clear undertaking on where or when they would hand over Elian. Ms Reno denied the use of heavily armed officers was excessive, and added: "It was a show of force that prevented people from getting hurt, and it's something we tried to do consistent with the best law enforcement practice."

Ms Reno was backed by the White House, whose spokes- man, Joe Lockhart, said President Bill Clinton was convinced the operation was "the only alternative remaining to reunite the boy with his father".

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, and the Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott, promised Congressional hearings, saying the raid was more characteristic of Cuba than of America. One complaint was the lack of consultation with Congress. The House Republican whip, Tom DeLay, said: "This a frightening event, that American citizens can expect the executive branch on their own can decide on whether to raid a home."

The US Immigration Service denied his claim that the raid had been conducted without a warrant. That was issued by a Florida judge on Friday, authorising a house search and Elian's removal. He is with his father and step-mother at an air force base near Washington.

Miami relatives twice refused entry to the base were told by the father's lawyer to contact him to find out if Juan Miguel would allow them to see Elian. His cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, who became a mother figure to Elian in Miami, vowed on Sunday not to leave Washington without seeing him. "He's not okay," she said.

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