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U.S., Cuba Spar Over Elian

Both sides are digging in for what could be a long struggle in the international custody fight over a six-year-old Cuban refugee.

There are now five lawyers working to keep young Elian Gonzalez in the United States, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman. On Friday, they went to the INS to buy him, and themselves, some time.

Attorney Spencer Eig said they acted, "To protect poor Elian Gonzalez from being forced to return to Cuba against his will and to prevent him from facing future persecution."

Elian was found clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day. His mother died on the perilous escape from Cuba. Since then, he has been living with relatives who want him to stay in Miami, while his father and the Cuban government are demanding his return to Havana.

Bernard Perlmutter, an expert in children's law and immigration, says it's going to be hard for Elian's lawyers to prove the boy would be in real danger if he returned to Havana. "My sense is that the attorneys for the family are utilizing a legal process to delay the inevitable," he says. "The inevitable is the return of the kid to Cuba."

In the long stalemate between the two countries, Elian has become a symbol. What was a question of parental rights has become so political that even a presidential candidate came to Florida to join the chorus condemning Castro.

"I would urge President Clinton to make it clear that under no circumstances that this boy should be condemned to a life of communist oppression," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Without Friday's legal maneuvering, Elian could have returned to Cuba before Christmas. The asylum process usually takes 60 days -- longer with appeals -- which means Elian isn't likely to be leaving anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the chanting along Havana's legendary Malicon continued for the fifth straight night. And once again, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts, Fidel Castro has proven he has not changed.

CBS News has learned that the Cuban president put a stop to talks between Elian's father and U.S. immigration officials because the U.S. would not guarantee that the boy would be returned immediately. Without that guarantee, Castro is refusing to pass along an important letter detailing the kinds of information Juan Gonzalez would need to provide to regain custody of his six-year-old boy.

So for now, Castro will do his talking along the streets of Havana, where once again men, women and schoolchildren by the tens of thousands chant for liberty for Elian.

As Castro controls the message and the media, most Cubans are unaware U.S. immigration was only asking for a birth certificate or some documentation verifying the fathers claim to custody.