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Obama's review of Cuba as state sponsor of terror in "final stages"

An old car with the Cuban flag painted on the trunk is seen near the Capitol of Havana, on January 7, 2015.

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WASHINGTON -- White House officials left open the possibility that President Barack Obama could recommend Cuba's removal from a list of state sponsors of terror around the time of this week's Summit of the Americas in Panama. They also sought to soften tensions with Venezuela that threatened to overshadow the summit.

Deputy National Security adviser Benjamin Rhodes said Tuesday the State Department's review of Cuba's place on that terror list is in "its final stages." He would not rule out an Obama announcement at the two-day summit in Panama City.

Cuba has been on the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list since Mar. 1, 1982. The only other countries on the list are Sudan, Syria and Iran.

Rhodes also downplayed U.S. sanctions against certain Venezuelans in protest of President Nicolas Maduro's crackdown on dissent.

Rhodes said the U.S. doesn't believe Venezuela poses a threat to U.S. security. He said the sanctions were not meant to target the Venezuelan government.