Cuba's Castro meets with Angolan president

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HAVANA, Sep 23 (Reuters) Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos today became the first foreign dignitary since early June to meet with convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the government said today.

Dos Santos told the Cuban press he found Castro to be ''recovering, strong, enthusiastic.'' A government statement said, ''The two presidents analyzed the complicated problems that humanity is facing today, and which fundamentally impact the people of the poorest nations.'' Castro and dos Santos also discussed Cuba's role in Africa during the hour and 45 minute meeting yesterday.

The official Juventud Rebelde newspaper's front page had a large photo showing both men standing, smiling and shaking hands.

Castro appears very thin in the photo and is dressed in a bulky track suit.

Castro's last known foreign visitor was Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh on June 2.

Castro, 81, appeared on Cuban television on Friday for an hour interview with a government journalist that squashed rumors he was near death after not being seen in three months.

Castro spoke slowly about world affairs, the Cold War and the global economy, but appeared little changed from the last time he was shown in a state television interview on June 5.

''Here I am,'' Castro said, rebuffing those who have speculated that he was at death's door, already dead or about to die. ''Nobody knows when he is going to die.'' Castro, who took power on the Caribbean island in a 1959 revolution, handed over control to his younger brother, Raul Castro, on July 31, 2006, after emergency intestinal surgery.

He has not appeared in public since then.

Instead, he has been seen in occasional photographs and videos with visiting foreign leaders, always in a track suit, and has published a steady stream of columns and essays in state media over the past six months.

Dos Santos arrived in Cuba on Thursday and was scheduled to leave the country today.

REUTERS AB RK2335

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