Fidel Castro said in a statement Tuesday that he has lost more than 41 pounds since he had intestinal surgery but added that the "most critical moment" was behind him.

The Cuban leader announced on July 31 that he was stepping aside as president to recover from the operation. He said he was temporarily turning over power to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister.

It was the first time in 47 years of rule that Castro had stepped aside, even temporarily.

In the weeks since, the nature of his surgery and his specific ailment have been treated as a state secret.

CountryWatch: Cuba

"Today I am recovering at a satisfactory rhythm," said the statement published in the Communist Party daily Granma, which was accompanied by new photographs of the 80-year-old Castro.

He said that he had just recently had the last stitches removed.

"In the coming days I will be receiving distinguished visitors," he added, apparently referring to some of the heads of state and government who will be traveling to the summit of nonaligned nations next week.

"This doesn't mean that every activity will be immediately accompanied by video or photographic images, although news will be provided of every one," the statement said.

"All of us must understand that it is not convenient to systematically offer information, nor give out images of my health situation," Castro added. "All of us must also understand realistically that the complete recovery time, whether we like it or not, will be prolonged.

"At this moment I am not in a hurry, and no one should be in a hurry. The country is marching and moving ahead," he said.