Officials Say Castro Is Recovering Favorably

HAVANA -- Cuban officials said an aging and ailing Fidel Castro was recovering and could return to power in a few weeks, even though he remained out of sight five days after a surgery that forced him to put his brother in charge of the country.

They tried to allay suspicions that the 79-year-old Communist leader had lost his grip on the island nation he took over in a 1959 revolution, but admitted his health might require him to reduce his workload.

Government sources said Castro was well enough to be eating and sitting up, but he has not been seen in public since July 26.

His brother Raul, 75, has not surfaced since Fidel gave him provisional power Monday, which triggered speculation about who was in charge.

Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage said Castro would return to the presidency "in several weeks" and denied a Brazilian newspaper report his surgery was for stomach cancer, not gastrointestinal bleeding, as announced.

"Fidel has had to confront an operation and is recovering favorably. He does not have cancer," Lage said during an official visit to Bolivia.

In a telephone interview on a radio station in Miami, home to 650,000 Cuban-Americans and the center of Castro opposition, Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said Fidel came through the "complicated" surgery so well that a few hours afterwards "he was talking, he was making jokes."

"That's why I feel confident he will recover very soon," he said.