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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 23:03 GMT
Castro 'to be fit to hold power'
Fidel Castro. Picture issued 28 October 2006.
Castro has not been seen in public since surgery in July
Cuba's ailing President Fidel Castro will be "in perfect shape" to run for re-election to parliament next year, the head of the National Assembly said.

Ricardo Alarcon said Mr Castro was focusing on recovery from surgery and would be fit to do his job.

The process of choosing candidates is due to begin in the coming months.

Correspondents say the vote is the first step for re-election for the Cuban president who is chosen by MPs rather than by the people.

The Cuban leader has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July and has temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul.

Following a parliamentary session to discuss Cuba's upcoming elections, Mr Alarcon said President Castro was "doing fine and continuing to focus on recovery and rehabilitation".

By March 2008, Cuba should be ready to hold elections that are expected to include Fidel Castro, Mr Alarcon said.

'Recuperating physically'

Mr Alarcon said he had been in contact with President Castro many times recently. He said that even though the president ceded power to his brother, he never "abandoned his role".

"Fidel has been and is very involved, very connected, very active in all manner of important decisions that this country makes.

"What's happening is, he can't do it the same way he did before because he has to dedicate a good part of his time to recuperating physically," Mr Alarcon said.

The head of the National Assembly said: "To what extent he will go back to doing things the way he did, the way he is accustomed to, it's up to him."

He would not comment on whether Raul Castro would remain in power if his brother regains his fitness to return to work full-time.

Fidel Castro's January appearance on Cuban TV

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