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Ailing Castro to take summit spotlight

india Updated: Sep 10, 2006 14:16 IST

Not one to shy away from the spotlight, the ailing Fidel Castro will cast a long shadow as Cuba hosts much of the developing world, including key US foes, at a Non Aligned Movement summit in Havana this week.

Castro, 80, has long been one of the most enthusiastic leaders of the NAM, and his communist regime has vowed to strengthen the movement, which has struggled to remain relevant in a post Cold War world.

The key question is whether Castro will be well enough to show up at the convention centre where dozens of leaders will gather for the September 15-16 Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit, which is to be preceded by four days of preparatory meetings.

The bearded Cuban president announced on July 31 that he was recovering from intestinal surgery and had temporarily handed power to his brother Raul, 75, his constitutionally designated successor and the Caribbean nation's defence chief.

Authorities remained tight-lipped about the exact condition of the older Castro who has only been seen in photographs and on video footage since the announcement.

But the communist leader who has ruled the Caribbean island nation for almost five decades said in a statement this week that the worst of his health crisis was over.

"I'm recovering at a satisfactory pace. I'll be receiving distinguished visitors over the next few days," he wrote, without specifying where he would meet his guests.

When he announced his surgery on July 31, Castro stressed that the NAM meeting "must get top attention from the government and the Cuban nation".