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Farrakhan battling illness, tells Nation followers to carry on

Controversial U.S. minister Louis Farrakhan said in a letter to followers this month that he is seriously ill, and he asked the Nation of Islam's leaders to carry on in his absence to make sure the movement "will live long after I and we have gone."

Controversial U.S. minister Louis Farrakhan says he is seriously ill, and has asked the Nation of Islam's leaders to carry on in his absence to make sure the movement "will live long after I and we have gone."

In a letter to followers this month, Farrakhan, 73, saidhe began suffering pain earlier this year similar to 1998, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent surgery. He said doctors discovered an ulcer in his anal area during a visit to Cuba in March.

Since then, he has lost 35 pounds while battling "serious infection and inflammation," Farrakhan said in the letter dated Sept. 11 and published in the Nation of Islam's The Final Call newspaper.

Farrakhan said he will work hard to recover "because I do not believe my earthly work is done." He said he asked his executive board to solve problems during his recovery.

Farrakhan likened his situation to that of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who temporarily relinquished power because of illness.

"While many rejoiced —believing and thinking that if Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution expired they could move Cuba and the Revolution in a new direction — his absence from the helm only proved that Cuba will not fall apart over the absence or passing of their illustrious leader," Farrakhan wrote in the letter.

He also warned followers to be "ever watchful for any smart, crooked deceiver and hypocrite who would create confusion over my present condition."

Farrakhan assumed leadership and control of the name Nation of Islam in 1978, the group founded in the 1930s by Elijah Muhammad to advance African-American causes.Farrakhan split with Muhammad's son, Wallace, over the direction of the group, favouring a goal of black separatism.

He organizedthe Million Man March in Washington, D.C., which saw hundreds of thousands of African-Americans descend on the capital in October 1995 in a show of solidarity.

Farrakhan has also drawn fire for comments regardingCaucasians, Jews and homosexuals.

Since battling prostate cancer, Farrakhan has been more conciliatory, meeting in 2005 with black gay and lesbian activists.