Castro too sick to attend birthday bash

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro was too ill to attend the kickoff of his five day 80th birthday bash.

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro was too illto attend the kickoff of his five-day, 80th birthday bash on Tuesday.

In a written message read to hundreds of peoplewho had gathered at Havana's Karl Marx Theater for the celebration, Castro said doctors had advised him against attending the party.

"I direct myself to you, intellectuals and prestigious personalities of the world, with a dilemma," said the note read at the gathering and broadcast live on state television.

"I could not meet with you in a small local, only in the Karl Marx Theater where all the visitors would fit and I was not yet inconditions, according to the doctors, to face such a colossal encounter."

The crowd responded by giving Castro a standing ovation.

Castro's actual birthday is Aug. 13.But afterfalling ill, Castro asked that birthday festivitiesbe postponed untilDec. 2 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Castro has been seen by the public only in photos and videos since his July 31 announcement that he was temporarily ceding power to his brother, 75-year-old Defence Minister Raul Castro, while he recovered from surgery for intestinal bleeding. Details of his ailment and his medical treatment are state secrets.

U.S. government officials said earlier this month there is still some mystery about Castro's diagnosis, his treatment and how he is responding. But the officials believe he has terminal cancer of the stomach, colon or pancreas.

With files from the Associated Press