HAVANA — Cuba and a top Vatican official expressed optimism Wednesday that landmark negotiations between the church and Raul Castro's government will continue and indicated they could produce more breakthroughs on the treatment of dissidents and political prisoners.

The comments by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's foreign minister, and his Cuban counterpart were the latest signal that a month-old dialogue that has already led to the release of an ailing prisoner of conscience and the transfer of 12 others to jails closer to their homes is gaining strength.

"The dialogue that is happening now makes us happy, and I hope that it will be strengthened through my visit," Mamberti said at a joint news conference with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. "I think it is important ... to see the fruits" of such talks.

Rodriguez applauded the role the Church has been playing on the island, and said all signs point to more dialogue.

"We have held fluid and profoundly productive talks," he said. "We appreciate the constructive role of the Church in these matters and we think that all conditions exist ... for these fruitful exchanges to continue."

Neither spoke of any concrete steps that would see the release of more of Cuba's 180 political prisoners. Mamberti said he had no plans to meet with dissidents, though he did not rule it out.

Note to the AP: the tyrannical regime of the Castro brothers IS NOT Cuba.

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