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Fidel Castro denies split in Cuban government

world Updated: Jun 23, 2008 13:00 IST

Fidel Castro strongly denied rumours that he is the leader of a faction of hardline Communists disgruntled about reforms introduced in Cuba since his brother Raul took over as president.

"I am not now, nor will I ever be at the head of any group or faction. Therefore, it can't follow that there is infighting in the party," Castro said in commentary appearing on the official Cubadebate website yesterday.

While the ailing 81-year-old former president did not explain what prompted his comment, which he expressly requested not be published in newspapers, it followed his scathing attack Friday on the European Union's decision a day earlier to lift its sanctions on Cuba.

Fidel branded the EU's decision "a great hypocrisy" because it is conditioned on human rights progress and democratic reforms in Cuba, and also in view of the "brutal" immigration law it passed a few days earlier that made illegal immigration a crime.

Raul Castro, who officially took office on February 24, has been de facto ruler since late July 2006 when Fidel was sidelined with serious health problems.

Dissident and opposition groups see discrepancies between Fidel Castro's writings and the government's recent reforms, although any official will insist the Castro brothers, while different, toe the same political line.

"I write because I'm still in the struggle, and I do so to uphold the beliefs I've defended all my life," Fidel Castro wrote in Cubadebate under the headline, "Reflections from comrade Fidel.