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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 05:28 GMT
Cuba TV shows pictures of Castro
Image of President Fidel Castro on Cuban TV (28 October 2006)
He was shown walking unassisted and reading Saturday's newspaper

Cuban television has broadcast the first images of President Fidel Castro in more than a month, defiantly addressing rumours that he had died.

Mr Castro said his recovery would be long and not without risk, but said he was "coming along just as planned."

He called the rumours "ridiculous" and said: "Let's see what they say now."

The 80-year-old, who temporarily handed over power to his younger brother in July following intestinal surgery, had not been seen since mid-September.

In the new video footage the ailing president was pictured walking unassisted and - to underscore that it is not archive material - reading a copy of Saturday's edition of Granma, the Communist Party daily newspaper.

This is excellent news for everyone - all Cubans, and all of Cuba's friends
Vice President Carlos Lage

"Now, when our enemies have prematurely declared me moribund or dead, I'm happy to send to our compatriots and friends around the world this short film footage," he said.

Cuban officials attending a ballet festival in Havana said they were delighted to see the images of President Castro.

"This is excellent news for everyone - all Cubans, and all of Cuba's friends," Vice President Carlos Lage said.

"We are really happy to see that Fidel is better and that every day he is moving forward," Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said. "He's not been lost, just working on his [recovery] plan."

State secret

Cuban President Fidel Castro (13 September 2006)
Images of Mr Castro were shown in September to quell rumours
Earlier this month, Time magazine quoted an unnamed US official alleging that the president had terminal cancer.

Mr Castro's younger brother, Raul, denied this, saying the president, was "getting better all the time".

Mr Castro handed temporary power to his brother in July, prompting speculation that his 47-year rule was nearly over.

Cubans were told that details of the ailment would be kept secret to prevent Cuba's enemies from taking advantage of them.

Images of a frail Mr Castro were released on his birthday, on 13 August, in an attempt to quell rumours that he had died.

More recently, video images were broadcast showing Mr Castro, in his hospital bed and wearing pyjamas, greeting visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

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