Friday, September 15, 2006

Castro's health looms at summit of U.S. foes


Fri Sep 15, 2006 1:14am ET163

By Matthew Bigg

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Fidel Castro's state of health loomed over a summit of nonaligned nations on Friday at which Iran and other prominent opponents of U.S. policy sought to forge a united front.

The 80-year-old communist leader who fell ill in late July has three opportunities on Friday to appear before delegates: at a group photograph, the opening of the formal presidential session of the six-day summit, and later at a state dinner.

State television showed Castro standing up briefly to greet friend and ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, on Thursday. Chavez said later Castro was walking and singing.

The description will appear optimistic if Castro, who since 1959 has embodied opposition to the United States, does not make his first public appearance since he temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul Castro on July 31.

Chavez himself played down the importance of Castro's presence. "Even if he is not physically among us today or tomorrow, that doesn't matter. He is running all this," he said.

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