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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007, 17:35 GMT
Cuba's Castro 'able to eat again'
Fidel Castro
A stronger Mr Castro appeared defiant on a recent video
Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba has said the country's ailing leader Fidel Castro has begun eating again as his health improves following surgery.

Mr Castro, 80, has recently shown "significant improvement" in his health and his appearance, Ali Rodriguez said.

However, he added that Cuba was ready for Mr Castro's eventual death.

Mr Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing gastric surgery in July, prompting speculation that he has cancer or is terminally ill.

Mr Castro's younger brother, Raul, has been acting as president since July.

Appetite

Fidel Castro was last shown in a video of a meeting with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, a close ally.

That footage showed Mr Castro drinking orange juice and joking with the Venezuelan leader, who is a close ally.

Speaking to Venezuelan state TV, Mr Rodriguez said the key to Mr Castro's apparent recovery of strength was his decision to resume eating.

"The problem is that at first he was not eating food, but now he is eating food and that has helped him significantly."

State secret

Mr Castro's health is treated as a state secret in Cuba, and has been the subject of much speculation both at home and overseas.

The most regular pronouncements on his health have come from Mr Chavez.

Cuban authorities have denied the claims of US intelligence officials that he has terminal cancer but will only say that Mr Castro is recuperating satisfactorily.

Last month, President Chavez denied a report in a Spanish newspaper that said Mr Castro's prognosis was very grave after three failed operations.

A Spanish surgeon who travelled to Cuba last month to examine Mr Castro also said the report was "without foundation".


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Fidel Castro appears on Cuban TV





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