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In speech, Rubio slams Obama's outreach to Iran and Cuba

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is slamming President Barack Obama's outreach to Iran and Cuba, calling his diplomacy with the two nations evidence of "every flawed strategic, moral and economic notion" that has driven his foreign policy.

In a speech Friday to the conservative-leaning Foreign Policy Initiative in New York, set for delivery the same day Secretary of State John Kerry re-opens the U.S. embassy in Havana, the Florida senator will say that Obama has made no efforts "to stand on the side of freedom."

"He has been quick to deal with the oppressors, but slow to deal with the oppressed," Rubio says in excerpts of prepared remarks released by his campaign.

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the top-tier candidates in a crowded Republican field for president, the Cuban-American lawmaker has made foreign policy a centerpiece of his campaign.

In the speech, he pledges to roll back what he calls Obama's "concessions" to Cuba and the recently completed nuclear deal with Iran and says he will "repair the damage done to America's standing in the Middle East."

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Rubio says he would demand that the Cuban government carry out political and human rights reforms to maintain diplomatic relations and would return the country to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism until it stops "helping North Korea evade international sanctions" and "harboring fugitives from American justice."

The Obama administration has said it is normalizing ties with Cuba after more than 50 years of hostility failed to shake the communist government's hold on power. It argues that dealing directly with Cuba over issues including human rights and trade is far more likely to produce reforms over the long term.

The issue is one of personal importance to Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba in the 1950s.

Rubio in his speech also vows to re-impose the economic sanctions U.S. and other world powers agreed to lift in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.

"I will give the mullahs a choice: either you have an economy or you have a nuclear program, but you cannot have both," he says.

Opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, brokered by the U.S., Britain China, France, Germany and Russia, is universal among the Republican candidates for president. Congress will vote on the agreement in about a month, and Obama is working to secure enough Democratic votes to prevent Congress from overriding his veto of its likely vote to oppose the deal.

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Associated Press news survey specialist Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.

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