Fidel Castro warns of nuclear risk in 1st speech to Cuban parliament in 4 years
HAVANA -- A lively and healthy-looking Fidel Castro appealed to President Obama to stave off global nuclear war in an emphatic address to the Cuban parliament Saturday that marked his first official government appearance since emergency surgery four years ago.
Castro, who turns 84 in a week, arrived on the arm of a subordinate who steadied him as he walked. The nearly 600 lawmakers present sprang to their feet and applauded as he took the podium, grinning broadly and waving. "Long live Fidel!" they chanted.
Castro has been warning in opinion columns for months that the United States and Israel will launch a nuclear attack on Iran and that Washington could also target North Korea -- predicting Armageddon-like devastation.
"Eight weeks ago, I thought that the imminent danger of war didn't have a possible solution. So dramatic was the problem that I didn't see another way out," Castro told the National Assembly. "I am sure that it won't be like that and, instead . . . one man will make the decision alone, the president of the United States."
His address, along with a spate of recent appearances after a four-year absence from public view, is likely to raise more questions about how much of a leadership role he is ready to reassume.
The speech lasted barely 11 minutes -- possibly a record for the man who became famous for his hours-long discourses during his 49 years in power.
He took a seat after his speech and was briefly approached by his wife, Delia Soto del Valle. In the past, the couple rarely appeared in public together, but Soto has been seen with Castro more frequently of late.
It was Castro's first appearance in parliament or at a government act since shortly before a health crisis in July 2006 that forced him to cede power to his younger brother Raúl -- first temporarily and then permanently.
-- Associated Press