The Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has told a visiting American journalist and a U.S.-Cuba policy expert that the island's state-dominated system is in need of change.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked Mr. Castro if Cuba's economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Mr. Castro replied — “The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore,” Mr. Goldberg wrote on Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.

The Cuban government had no immediate comment on Mr. Goldberg's account.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations who accompanied Mr. Goldberg on the trip, confirmed the Cuban leader's comment, which he made at a private lunch last week.

She told The Associated Press she took the remark to be in line with President Raul Castro's call for gradual but widespread reform.

In general, she said she found Mr. Castro (84) to be “relaxed, witty, conversational and quite accessible”.

Mr. Goldberg, who travelled to Cuba at Mr. Castro's invitation last week to discuss a recent Atlantic article he wrote about Iran's nuclear programme, also reported on Tuesday that Mr. Castro questioned his own actions during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, including his recommendation to Soviet leaders that they use nuclear weapons against the United States.

The state controls well over 90 per cent of the economy, provides free healthcare and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen's food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidised prices.

Cuba says much of its suffering is caused by the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo. Mr. Castro's interview with Mr. Goldberg is the only one he has given to an American journalist since he left office. — AP

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