Page last updated at 19:58 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Fidel contemplates his mortality

Fidel Castro with Argentina's Cristina Fernandez in Havana, 21 January 2009 (image from Argentine president's office)
Argentina has released photos of Mr Castro meeting its president this week

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has urged his country's leadership not to be disturbed by his illness or his eventual death.

In his second online article in two days, Mr Castro again praised new US President Barack Obama.

But he added that he did not expect to be following world events by the end of Mr Obama's first term in four years.

There has been much speculation on the health of the 82-year-old, who had not written a column for five weeks.

Fidel Castro's second essay on in two days came after his brother, President Raul Castro, denied rumours that his health was worsening.

Mr Castro had not written any columns since 15 December, after averaging nine a month in 2008.

He has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006.

However, Argentina released photos of him meeting its visiting President, Cristina Fernandez, in Havana on Wednesday.

'Meditate calmly'

In his article published on Thursday, Mr Castro said Cuban leaders "shouldn't feel bound by my occasional [columns], my state of health or my death".

"I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long time. I receive information and meditate calmly on those events. I expect I won't enjoy that privilege in four years, when Obama's first presidential term has ended," he wrote.

He said he had written fewer columns recently so as not to "interfere or get in the way of the [Communist] Party or government comrades in the constant decisions they must make".

In his column on Wednesday, Mr Castro praised Mr Obama for his "honesty" but said he had many questions to answer.

Mr Castro, whose Cuban revolution has survived 10 US presidents, had warm words for America's new leader.

"I expressed that personally I had not the least doubt of the honesty with which Obama, the 11th president since 1 January, 1959, expressed his ideas, but in spite of his noble intentions there remained many questions to answer," he wrote.

Mr Obama has said he wants to meet Cuban leaders and improve US-Cuba relations. He has indicated he will ease restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba but maintain the 46-year US trade embargo on the island.

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