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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 04:12 GMT 05:12 UK

World: Americas

Castro says he feels fine

Fidel Castro with the President of Congo: reports of his illness baseless

The veteran Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has dismissed out of hand a recent US newspaper report alleging that he had been treated for a serious brain disease.

In an unusual briefing for a small group of foreign journalists late on Wednesday, Castro described the report in the Miami-based Spanish-language paper El Nuevo Herald as "a huge lie from top to bottom."

The paper quoted a woman it identified as Elisabeth Trujillo as saying that the Cuban leader had had treatment for hypertensive encephalopathy - a potentially fatal brain disease - at a Havana hospital in October 1997.

The paper, which is owned by the Miami Herald, said that Ms Trujillo had worked as a surgeon in Havana.

During the two-hour meeting with journalists, Fidel Castro said Elisabeth Trujillo had never worked as a surgeon, and he had never been to the hospital in question.

Castro also noted that during the period he was said to have been in hospital, he had held a meeting with a senior Vatican official to prepare for the visit to Cuba by the Pope.

"Someone fooled El Nuevo Herald, and it fooled millions of people," he said.

The Cuban leader insisted there was nothing wrong with his health.

"I myself am surprised at how well I feel for the famous 72 years I am about to mark," he said.

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