North Korea praised Fidel Castro on Saturday as a close ally who did not allow U.S. sanctions and a blockade to hinder his leadership of Cuba.

"The Korean people have regarded Fidel Castro as the closest comrade-in-arms and comrade, and will make positive efforts to steadily consolidate and develop the relations of friendship with the fraternal Cuban people," the North's official Korean Central News Agency cited the Foreign Ministry as saying.

The ailing 81-year-old leader ended his 49-year rule of the Caribbean nation when he resigned as president Tuesday.

Most expect Castro's brother Raul, five years his junior, to succeed him. Raul Castro has been acting president since his brother fell ill in July 2006.

The ministry wished Fidel Castro a swift recovery, hoping "everything will go well in Cuba in the future too," KCNA said.

"Fidel Castro has wisely led the party, government and people of Cuba to triumphantly advance the socialist cause in Cuba despite the U.S. persistent sanctions and blockade," it said.

North Korea and Cuba are among the last surviving communist regimes in the world. The two countries are on the U.S. blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism, along with Iran, Syria and Sudan.