The Clinton administration says it may work with Congress to provide more humanitarian relief to Cubans, but it opposes lifting or easing the 38-year-old ban on trade with the communist island.

"Economic sanctions can be and are a useful tool," Michael Rannenberger, the State Department's coordinator for Cuban affairs, told a House hearing Thursday. "If we want to see fundamental change in Cuba, pressure is necessary."Critics of the embargo claim it has done little to change Fidel Castro's policies.

"In fact, I believe it is one reason Castro has been able to stay in power so long," said Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass. "Quite simply, our embargo policy has given him an enemy to point to."

Moakley is a sponsor of a bill that would lift restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba.