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Page last updated at 00:37 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 01:37 UK

Castro 'healthy' in media images

Fidel Castro, right, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa meet in Havana, Cuba
Castro's health appears visibly to have improved in recent months

A new picture of Fidel Castro has been published in a state-run newspaper, apparently showing Cuba's ailing former leader in much better health.

Mr Castro, 83, was dressed more smartly than in other recent photos, wearing a white shirt rather than a tracksuit.

Later he appeared on television for the first time in 14 months, chatting to Venezuelan students, in a meeting which reportedly took place on Saturday.

He has not been seen in public since undergoing an operation in 2006.

Mr Castro stepped down and his younger brother, Raul, took over his various offices.

Since then he has undergone a series of major intestinal operations, although the state of his health and whereabouts remain state secrets.

Neatly combed

The photograph in Juventud Rebelde, the Communist Youth newspaper, showed Mr Castro talking to Ecuador's left-wing President, Rafael Correa.

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New TV pictures emerge of Fidel Castro

There was speculation that Fidel Castro's health had deteriorated significantly at the end of last year in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of Cuba's revolution, says the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana.

But his health does appear to have visibly improved in recent months, our correspondent adds.

In the latest photograph Mr Castro appears stronger: his greying, almost white hair is neatly combed back and even his trademark beard appears to have grown a little.

He remains an influential figure behind the scenes in Cuba and publishes regular editorials in the state-run media.

Occasional photographs of him are published, usually showing him greeting visiting dignitaries.



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