The Cuban leader said he was in "no hurry" to mend diplomatic relations with the US, which were severed in 1961, following the overthrow of the US-backed government by Fidel Castro's revolutionary movement.

The US imposed a series of economic sanctions in 1962 that has been reinforced by successive presidents.

"More than 70 per cent of Cubans were born under the blockade which has been in place for almost 50 years," Castro said.

"I'm 77-years-old but I feel good and young. In other words if this doesn't get resolved now, we'll wait another 50 years."

Obama talks

Castro also said the Cuban government was ready to hold talks with Barack Obama, the US president-elect, after he takes office on January 20.

"We are impulsive like the Brazilians but over the years we have also learned to be patient. So we are not desperate. In other words if Mr Obama wants to talk, we will talk and if he doesn't, we don't."

Obama said during his successful presidential campaign that he was prepared to consider holding talks with nations perceived to be hostile to the US, such as Cuba.

The Cuban leader had flown into the northeastern city of Salvador de Bahia, where he was met by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, before being escorted to a nearby seaside resort where the summit is set to take place.

The gathering of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations is set to focus on regional integration and development amid the deepening effects of a worldwide economic crisis.

Castro had arrived from Venezuela, where he had held talks with close ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader.