'Improving' Castro to meet leaders

Fidel Castro, the Cuban president, has said the worst of his health crisis is behind him and he will be able to receive foreign dignitaries during a summit next week.

    Castro received Venezuela's Hugo Chavez on Friday

    However, the Cuban leader said in a statement published on Tuesday that a full recovery from the undisclosed illness that has seen him lose more than 18 kg in weight and forced him to turn over power to his brother would take a long time.

    "One can say that the most critical moment is behind us. Today I am recovering at a satisfactory pace," he said in a message to the Cuban people published by the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma on its website, with photographs of him reading and writing in a rocking chair.

    But he added: "We must all understand also that, realistically, a full recovery will take a long time, like it or not.

    "At this time I am in no hurry at all and no-one should be in a hurry. The country is going well and advances."

    Summit

    Castro said he would receive foreign dignitaries in the coming days, but indicated the meetings would not be in public.

    "One can say that the most critical moment is behind us. Today I am recovering at a satisfactory pace...

    We must all understand also that, realistically, a full recovery will take a long time, like it or not"

    Fidel Castro,
    Cuban leader

    Cuba is to host a summit of the Non-aligned Movement of 116 developing nations next week in Havana.

    Many nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America will be represented and some 50 heads of state are due to attend.

    Castro is not expected to be strong enough to host the event, but a brief appearance has not been ruled out.

    Castro, 80, said he lost 18.6 kg in a few days after undergoing emergency surgery to stop intestinal bleeding caused by an unexpected health problem on July 26.

    Secrecy needed

    He asked the country to understand the need to withhold information about his health. His illness is a state secret to avoid helping his enemies in the United States, officials say.

    In the Granma pictures, a thinner Castro appeared in pyjamas and slippers in what looked like a hospital room.

    He said the last of his stitches was removed after 34 days of convalescence and he has been busy proof reading a second edition of a book of interviews he gave Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet.

    Castro, in power since a 1959 revolution, ceded the presidency and leadership of the ruling Communist Party temporarily to his brother Raul on July 31.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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