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Castro recovering, says Cuba's vice president

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 12:58 IST

Cuba's Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez said Fidel Castro continues to recover from intestinal surgery last year and that the country is operating normally in his absence.

Castro, 80, has not been seen in public since shortly before July 31 when he announced he was temporarily stepping aside while he recovered from an operation.

He has provisionally ceded power to his brother Raul, the 75-year-old defence minister.

"Fernandez indicated the leader is recovering and added that after six months of his convalescence the nation is functioning with normality," the official Prensa Latina news agency reported.

Castro's medical condition is a state secret, but Cuban authorities deny he suffers from terminal cancer, as US intelligence officials have claimed.

Cuban officials have nonetheless stopped insisting Castro will return to power.

A delegation of Spanish lawmakers, visiting from the country's Galicia region, wished Castro a speedy recovery, the agency reported.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a close ally of Castro, on Monday told reporters that "the health of Fidel Castro depends on God and the doctors".

He added that "the Cuban authorities prefer not to speculate about his health."

Last week, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Castro directed his surgeons to pursue the riskier option of surgery rather than performing a colostomy that would have forced him to be dependent on a bag for bodily functions.