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Furor Over Elian

Attorney General Janet Reno's plea for Americans to keep 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez out of politics appeared to fall on deaf ears Saturday.

What seemed to resonate instead was growing rage over the issuei—in Miami, Havana, Washington and on the campaign trail.

Reno, who favors returning the boy to his father in Cuba, spoke during a discussion on international law at the University of Virginia Law School.

"I think it is so important for all Americans to make sure we don't politicize the issue, that we do this within the law ... that we get it done in an orderly and calm and fair way," Reno said in response to a student's question during the forum. She did not elaborate on the point.

Her comments came two days after Vice President Al Gore broke with the Clinton administration and called for keeping the boy in the United States.

And it wasn't long before Elian came up again on the campaign trail—this time in New York's Senate race.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday said she opposed congressional action to make Elian Gonzalez a resident of this country.

"Hillary Clinton knows that we must take politics out of this decision," said Clinton Senate campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson. "Elian's future should be determined as quickly as possible through the appropriate, ongoing legal process."

Clinton's likely Republican opponent, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, disagrees. He maintains that the boy should be granted U.S. citizenship and that any custody issues should be handled in family court.

In Washington, CBS News Correspondent Rob Mark reports that a group of Cuban-American members of Congress, led by Rep. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, is seeking a meeting with Elian's father if he does travel to the United States.

In Miami, the nonprofit group Cuban Information Committee ran a full-page ad in The Miami Herald touting reasons why Elian should stay in America, including claims that the boy, if returned, would become a "pawn in Castro's hands, a trophy he will display in his latest victory over imperialism."

"If he is sent back to Cuba he will have no future," said German Miret, a Miami businessman and member of the group. "He will become a son of the revolution. He will no longer be a son of his father."

Outside the house where Elian is staying, dozens of protestors gathered.

"I will stay here in case immigration comes to take him away," said Sacha Sanchez, who blasted a scratchy recording of the Cuban national anthem over a bullhorn between lengthy speeches.

The leader of the Miami-based anti-Castro group Democracy Movement said it is poised to react if the government attempts to take Elian.

"We have called for people to get ready in the event Elian is deported," said Ramon Saul Sanchez. He warned that the group could quickly mobilize a massive civil disobedience campaign that would slow comerce at Miami's port, airport and highways.

"We are not willing to harm anyone, but we are willing to die to defend the Constitutional rights of Elian Gonzalez," he said.

In Havana, tens of thousands of flag-waving Cubans rallied in Havana Saturday. The demonstrators wore T-shirts with Elian's portrait.

Talks between government lawyers and attorneys for the Miami family are expected to resume Monday.

The INS wants a signed promise from the Miami relatives that will surrender Elian if they lose their court battle to keep him in the United States. The INS threatened to revoke the boy's residency status but twice this week pushed back the deadline, now scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

As CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports, lawyers for the relatives now claim that he would face child abuse at the hands of his father.

Up to now, the relatives had argued the boy should remain in the United States because he would be persecuted and brainwashed by Fidel Castro in Cuba.

But now, asserts Kendall Coffey, the Gonzalez family attorney, "We're certainly not going to agree to turn over a child who's gone through multiple traumas to a father we think may well be abusive."

Coffey claims Elian watched his father beat his mother, and that Juan Gonzalez has in recent weeks verbally attacked his son.

The lawyer for Elian's father called Coffey's allegations ridiculous. "For four months no one has made any allegation whatsoever that he's an unfit father," says Gregory Craig.

The relatives said Friday they will let Juan Miguel Gonzalez visit Elian at their Little Havana home, but they will not hand over the boy while they fight in court for an asylum hearing for him, family attorney Manny Diaz said.

Lawyers for the Miami relatives have never shared evidence of abuse with the INS or Reno, according to sources at the Justice Department.

The father has requested a visa to come to the United States for as long as it takes to complete the court case. A federal appeals court in Atlanta has scheduled arguments for May 11.

U.S. officials were examining visa regulations to determine how many of the 31 would-be companions proposed by the Cuban government would be able to join Elian's father.

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