Recovering Fidel Castro meets Uruguayan leader
Sunday, 22 June 2008

HAVANA, Jun 20,( - Fidel Castro met on Thursday with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez in the third known meeting this week for the 81-year-old former Cuban leader who has been recovering following surgery almost two years ago.

Vazquez, who also is an oncologist, told reporters Castro looked "very good, in very good spirits, very good intellectually" during their two-hour, 20 minute session in an undisclosed location in the Cuban capital.

He said Castro had gone through a "difficult personal situation that he has now definitely left behind," apparently referring to the ailment that forced him out of sight and finally out of the office he held for 49 years.

Castro has been seen only in videos and photos since the July 2006 intestinal operation, of which little is known but that it prompted him to provisionally cede power to brother Raul Castro.

In February, he resigned and the National Assembly voted Raul Castro in as new president.

In what appeared to be an unusually busy week, Castro met with close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday and Tuesday somewhere in Cuba.

Cuban television showed a brief video from the latter meeting, which were the first images of Castro shown since a mid-January video of a meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

His long absence from public view had fed rumors his health was failing, but in Tuesday's video he appeared reasonably vigorous in an animated conversation with Chavez and Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro, in a statement read to the University of Havana audience awaiting Vazquez, said the two had had a "friendly conversation."

Vazquez arrived in Cuba on Tuesday for a four-day visit that was the first by a Uruguayan president to the island since the revolution.

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