HAVANA – Cuban officials told a group of visiting U.S. lawmakers that the ailing Fidel Castro does not have cancer or a terminal illness, the head of the U.S. delegation said Sunday.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said Cuban officials did not provide further details on the 80-year-old leader's health, but did say he will eventually return to being a public figure.
"All the officials have told us that his illness is not cancer, nor is it terminal, and he will be back," Flake told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Castro's medical condition has been treated as a state secret since he underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding in late July and temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro. He has not been seen publicly since July 26.
Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted the elder Castro is recovering, and Vice President Carlos Lage previously shot down reports that the leader was suffering from stomach cancer. But officials have not publicly denied rumors that he could have another type of cancer or some other terminal illness.
U.S. officials, meanwhile, say they believe Castro suffers from some kind of inoperable cancer and won't live through the end of 2007.