Castro ridicules death rumours on video

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has appeared on television holding a copy of Saturday's newspaper and ridiculing rumours that he had died following stomach surgery in July.

Fidel Castro appeared on Cuban state television for the first time in more than a month on Saturday, looking thin and tired but walking around and ridiculing recent rumors of his death.

The ailing Cuban dictator, 80, who temporarily ceded power to his brother Raul in July following intestinal surgery, had not been seen since mid-September when photographs of him receiving world leaders at a summit in Havana were released.

In Saturday's video, he was shown walking slowly but steadily in an unidentified room and reading a newspaper in a loud voice.

"They've declared me moribund prematurely," he said, holding a copy of Saturday's edition of Granma, the Communist party daily newspaper. "But it pleases me to send my compatriots and friends this small video."

He said his recovery would be prolonged and not without risk but added: "I'm not the least bit afraid of what will occur."

Castro said he was "coming along just as planned," and called rumours of his death ridiculous and insulting, claiming they were the work of his enemies. "Let's see what they say now," he said.

The Cuban government has treated Castro's ailment as a state secret, and rumours that he might have died had intensified in recent weeks. He has not made a public appearance since July 26, a few days before he underwent surgery.

The video shown Saturday came a day after Castro's close friend and ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said the Cuban leader was walking and taking trips at night into the countryside.