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Nov 29, 12:58 PM EST

Two US officials to attend Fidel Castro's funeral

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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

WASHINGTON (AP) -- White House spokesman Josh Earnest says a high-ranking presidential adviser and the top diplomat to Cuba will represent the United States at Fidel Castro's funeral.

Earnest is emphasizing that the two are not part of a formal delegation to the service, but the appearance of deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and Jeffrey DeLaurentis shows a commitment to an "ongoing, future-oriented relationship with the Cuban people." DeLaurentis is awaiting Senate confirmation to be U.S. ambassador to Cuba.

Earnest says Rhodes was already scheduled to be on the island this week. He notes that Rhodes played a leading role in crafting agreements to normalize relations with Cuba.

Earnest says Rhodes' and DeLaurentis' attendance is "an appropriate way to show respect," while acknowledging the differences that remain between the two nations.

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