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Castro says he won t outlive Obama s term

HAVANA, Jan 23 – Ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said Thursday he will not outlive US President Barrack Obama’s first term in office, and asked the government of his brother, President Raul Castro, not to fuss over his death.

"I’m well, but I insist that nobody (in government) should feel obligated by my Reflexiones (newspaper articles), my ailing health or my death," the 82-year-old said in a posting on an official government website, responding to rumours about his impending demise.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing gastrointestinal surgery in July 2006 and handing power over to his brother Raul. He has been writing regularly in newspapers and has received visiting statesmen with whom he has been photographed.

Castro this week wrote two articles, including Thursday’s commentary, breaking five weeks of silence that spawned speculation over his health.

Castro said he decided to write less this year "so as not to interfere or hamper my colleagues in the (communist) party and the government in the constant decisions they have to make.

He said he now spends most of his time going over the papers and speeches he generated during nearly 50 years as head of the Cuban revolution.

"I have had the rare privilege of observing events over a long period of time. I get information and meditate carefully over these events.

"I don’t expect to enjoy this privilege in four years, when Obama’s first term in office concludes," he said.

After fuelling pessimism over his health by not receiving visiting presidents from Ecuador and Panama this month, Castro on Wednesday met with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner. No photographs were issued of the encounter.

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She later told reporters Fidel looked "quite well" and had received her "on his feet like a gentleman."

President Raul Castro, on seeing Kirchner off at the close of her visit, denied the rumours about his brother’s health, telling reporters Fidel "is exercising, thinking and writing a lot … advising me and helping me."

In Thursday’s article, titled "The 11th president of the United States" in reference to the US presidents he has seen in the 50 years since the Cuban revolution began, Fidel Castro said he spoke about Obama with Kirchner.

He told her he did not doubt the US leader’s "honesty" and "noble intentions," but that he had many doubts about his rule, Castro said.

"Nobody can doubt the sincerity of his words when he says he will make his country into a model of freedom, respect for human rights in the world and for the independence of other nations," he added.

But, he warned: "Despite all the tests he has been put through, Obama has not faced the most important of all.

"What will he do when the immense power he has grasped soon proves to be totally useless in overcoming the intractable, opposing contradictions of the (capitalist) system?"

Obama, 47, was sworn in Tuesday as the 44th and first African-American president of the United States. His four-year term in office ends in January 2013.

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