"President Obama... must, and he's said it himself, go all the way and bring an end to this vestige of the Cold War," Hollande said after meeting with the 84-year-old Cuban leader.

Castro is on his first official trip to the European Union since taking over from his elder brother Fidel in 2006.

France has led the way in welcoming Cuba back into the diplomatic fold since the Caribbean island restored relations last year with the United States, after more than half a century of enmity.

The visit builds on Hollande's own state visit to Cuba last May, the first by a Western head of state in more than half a century.

Castro is the second former pariah to be welcomed to Paris in a matter of days, after Hollande hosted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week.

He was formally welcomed yesterday under the Arc de Triomphe before being driven down a virtually deserted Champs-Elysees avenue decked out in Cuban flags.

Police severely restricted access to spectators, and just a few groups of supporters of the Cuban regime were present.

France and Cuba signed deals on tourism, transport and fairtrade goods. Some of France's largest companies already invest in Cuba, including telecoms group Alcatel-Lucent, and energy firms Total and Alstom.

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