Fidel Castro speaks on Chavez TV program

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HAVANA, Oct 14 (Reuters) Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro spoke by telephone today on a live television show broadcast from Cuba by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

It was the first time Cubans had heard Castro speak live since emergency intestinal surgery forced him to hand over power to his brother July 31, 2006. He has not appeared in public since.

Castro, 81, appeared frail but alert in a 17-minute video taped during a four-hour meeting with Chavez yesterday and shown earlier in the day on the Chavez broadcast.

Castro wore a track suit top over his pajamas and sat on a cushion in an armchair as spoke about revolutionary icon Che Guevara in the video.

Castro spoke of Guevara's plan to spread revolution in Latin America when he was captured and executed by soldiers in Bolivia 40 years ago last week.

''The circumstances are more propitious than ever for the flowering of those ideas of revolution that Che spoke of,'' Castro said.

The Cuban leader has not appeared in public since emergency intestinal surgery forced him to hand over power to his brother Raul Castro in July last year.

Chavez broadcast his weekly radio and television show from the Guevara mausoleum, where the remains of the guerrilla fighter are entombed in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara.

Chavez considers Castro his political mentor and has succeeded the Cuban leader as the main opponent of the United States in Latin America. He called Castro ''our father.'' REUTERS SYU BST2312

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