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Castro does not have cancer, U.S. officials told

December 18, 2006|From the Associated Press

HAVANA — Cuban officials told a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers that Fidel Castro did not have cancer or a terminal illness, the most comprehensive denial yet of rumors about the ailing leader's health, members of a U.S. delegation said Sunday.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Cuban officials did not provide more details on the 80-year-old leader's health, but did say he would return to public life.

"All the officials have told us that his illness is not cancer, nor is it terminal, and he will be back," Flake said in a telephone interview.

Castro's medical condition has been a state secret since he underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding in July and temporarily ceded power to his younger brother, Raul. He has not been seen publicly since July 26.

Cuban officials have repeatedly said Castro is recovering, and Vice President Carlos Lage previously dismissed reports that the leader had stomach cancer.

But officials have not publicly denied rumors that he could have another type of cancer or some other terminal illness.

U.S. officials have said they think Castro has some kind of inoperable cancer and will not live through the end of 2007. Some U.S. doctors have speculated he could have a colon condition called diverticulosis, which is relatively common among the elderly.

Castro did not appear at his own delayed birthday celebrations this month, prompting speculation that he was on his deathbed.

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