Castro to Make First Public Appearance on Friday

Fidel Castro will host a dinner for visiting leaders of Nonaligned Movement nations this week in what would be his first public appearance since his surgery more than a month ago, according to an updated schedule released Sunday.

The 80-year-old leader announced July 31 he had undergone emergency surgery for an undisclosed intestinal ailment and provisionally handed over power as Cuba's president and Communist Party head to his younger brother, 75-year-old Defense Minister Raul Castro.

Dozens of heads of state and government are expected for the summit starting Monday in Havana, during which Malaysia will turn over the chairmanship of the movement to Cuba for the next three years.

CountryWatch: Cuba

The announcement of Fidel Castro's Friday night dinner ended speculation over whether he would make an appearance at the summit, which opens Monday with lower level officials and culminates Friday and Saturday with meetings of heads of state and government.

The nature of Castro's surgery and his specific ailment have been treated as a state secret, although photographs and statements from him have been released.

Earlier this week he said in a statement published in state media he would be able to meet with some visiting dignitaries, but gave the sense that those meetings would be small and private.

Since falling ill in late July, Castro has met privately three times with his good friend and key political ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and met privately last week with Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Photographs of Castro in his sickbed, and then later sitting up in a chair in his pajamas, taken during two of Chavez's visits were published in state newspapers in an apparent effort to assure Cubans that the man who has ruled Cuba for 47 years was getting better.

Cuba's International Press Center sent the meeting schedule by e-mail to international news organizations based in Havana that are covering the event. The schedule for Friday read: "20:30 hours: Official welcome dinner offered by his Excellency Mr. Fidel Castro Ruz. ..."

It was not immediately clear from the summit schedule if Castro would be involved in any of the work sessions.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also is scheduled to attend.

Representatives are coming from most of the 116 nonaligned nations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The only member that declined was Comoros Islands, which can't make it for financial reasons.

Among the well-known leaders attending are Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, and Bashar Assad of Syria, as well as Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh of India and Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand.