Recent moves by Washington to soften the 36-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba have been positive, but opposition within the United States is stalling further progress, Cuban President Fidel Castro said in remarks published Saturday.

Recently Washington ended a ban on direct flights between the United States and Cuba and began allowing Cuban exiles to legally send dollars to relatives in Cuba.There has also been a move to ease the ban on the sale of food and medicines to Cuba from the United States.

"These are positive actions," Castro said, "and there is no doubt that the president of the United States has been trying to take steps (forward) but he is confronting resistance."

The 72-year-old leader's remarks were published by Prensa Latina Saturday. They were made Friday night during a May Day ceremony in which he gave medals to distinguished workers.

Castro said the United Nations General Assembly and other international bodies have strongly condemned Washington's embargo. "There is general contempt in the world toward the policy of the White House toward Havana," he said.

The Cuban leader said he perceived growing opposition to the embargo and its consequences in the United States.

"I have the impression that many U.S leaders feel ashamed of what is happening, but it is indisputable that they themselves have created the mess in which they find themselves, like a fly caught in a spider web that cannot even move."

Castro was referring to the charge that Clinton weakened his ability to act unilaterally with regard to Cuba when he signed the Helms-Burton Act in 1996. The law prohibits the U.S. president from taking steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba until the Caribbean island has introduced major changes in its political and economic system.