Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cuba releases new Castro images




The BBC

Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK

By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Havana

The Cuban state media has released new photographs of President Fidel Castro, who is understood to be recuperating from gastric surgery.

In them he is shown meeting Argentine writer and politician Miguel Bonasso.

They are the first images of Mr Castro released since the opening of a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana.

There is speculation as to whether or not the Cuban leader, who has not been seen in public since late July, will make an appearance at the summit.

In the series of photographs, a distinctly gaunt, but apparently animated, Mr Castro is seen in conversation with his long-time friend.

The 80-year-old president is sitting up in his bed clothes.

Chavez breakfast

The release of these latest images comes as heads of state begin to arrive in Havana for the formal summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Many will be hoping to see in person the man who remains a symbolic leader for much of the developing world.

Mr Castro's closest ally - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - has said he expects to have breakfast with his mentor.

But the Cuban government, which has not revealed what illness Mr Castro is suffering from, is also not confirming whether or not the president will appear.

Cuban officials do, however, say that he is closely following and even directing proceedings.

On Wednesday the senior Cuban Vice-President, Carlos Lage, who is seen by many as a key player in any post-Castro Cuba, addressed delegates at the summit.

He said the United States was a morally decadent empire intent on imposing a worldwide dictatorship.

The 116 members of the movement are working on a joint declaration covering a range of issues from the situation in the Middle East to the future of the United Nations.

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