Sunday, November 30, 2008

Russian leader Medvedev praises Fidel Castro

11-30-2008 3:45 p.m.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's president paid tribute to Fidel Castro Sunday after a meeting with the Cuban revolutionary icon.

Dmitry Medvedev said his conversation with Castro Friday was "extremely interesting" and suggested the world should draw on the experience of such long-standing political figures when trying to tackle today's problems.

Medvedev spoke in a video recording that was made on his plane as he returned from Cuba and posted on the Kremlin Web site.

Medvedev referred to the 82-year-old former president as "Cuban leader Fidel Castro" even though his younger brother Raul is now president. Medvedev also met extensively with Raul Castro.

Medvedev, 43, visited Cuba, Venzuela, Peru and Brazil in a trip designed to boost Russia's influence in Latin America.

Medvedev's Latin America tour was partly a response to U.S. moves in eastern Europe, where Russia sees its security threatened by U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in former Soviet satellite states.

Medvedev said earlier that he and Raul Castro, 77, had discussed economic and "military-technical cooperation" — apparently arms sales — "as well as security and regional cooperation."

The Soviet Union was Cuba's chief source of aid and trade until it disintegrated in 1991 and Cuba's relations with the Russian Federation soured. Russia is now also looking to spend money on projects such as oil exploration in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico and in a Venezuelan effort to refurbish a Soviet-era refinery in the port city of Cienfuegos.

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