Video: Eyes on Castro at summit

msnbc.com news services
updated 9/14/2006 7:36:18 PM ET 2006-09-14T23:36:18

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared standing briefly during a meeting with Venezuela President Hugo Chavez at a summit of the Nonaligned Movement in Cuba, according to video shown on Cuban state TV on Thursday.

It was the first video showing the 80-year-old communist leader standing and out of bed since he fell ill in late July.

Chavez pledged at the summit that Venezuela will support Iran if it is invaded as a result of the Middle Eastern nation's high-stakes nuclear standoff with the U.N. Security Council.

"Iran is under threat; there are plans to invade Iran, hopefully it won't happen, but we are with you," Chavez told Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a meeting of the Group of 15 developing nations.

The U.N. has demanded that Iran suspend uranium enrichment amid concerns by some nations that it could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its enrichment efforts are peaceful, aimed solely at producing electricity.

Chavez said Venezuela stands with Iran in this time of crisis, just as it has with Cuba, where Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother Raul while recovering from intestinal surgery. If they don't defend each other, no one else will, Chavez said.

‘If the United Sates invades Cuba, blood will run’
"Under any scenario we are with you just like we are with Cuba," Chavez said. "If the United States invades Cuba, blood will run.... We will not have our arms crossed while bombs are falling in Havana or they carry Raul off in a plane."

Ahmadinejad gave a relatively mild speech, urging his fellow leaders to work together to help the G-15 nations achieve their full potential. Then Chavez took over, saying he didn't want to leave Havana without a statement reflecting resounding support for the Iranian, Cuban and Palestinian people.

It's not clear what Chavez could actually do to help Iran. He has vowed in the past to cut off U.S. oil supplies in case of an invasion of Cuba.

The meeting was a milestone for Cuba — the first time Raul Castro represented his nation at an international summit as acting president. But Chavez stole the show — saying Fidel Castro had given him permission to speak longer because Raul wouldn't talk much. Raul Castro seemed to take the jab in good spirits, giving Chavez a bear hug after the meeting.

Chavez also suggested that Raul's role wouldn't last for long — he said Fidel was walking and singing on Thursday, and was "almost well enough to play baseball."

Trading the green fatigues he's accustomed to as Cuba's defense minister for a sharp dark suit, Raul Castro briefly praised Iran and other developing nations for trying to create "a better, more just world."

"Our countries have no alternative but to unite and take concerted action to overcome our common obstacles," the younger Castro said, citing their efforts to promote dialogue between northern and southern nations.

Considering nuclear proliferation, Middle East violence
Nuclear proliferation and Middle East violence were on the table as scores of leaders began showing up in Havana Thursday for the summit of the Nonaligned Movement, which now includes two-thirds of the world's countries.

Some diplomats said the developing world must unite to demand the creation of a Palestinian state. Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said the movement would consider a resolution to "condemn Israel for the hideous war waged against Lebanon."

Others said containing nuclear weapons is the key issue.

"We believe the Middle East region should be free of all nuclear weapons, but this also includes Israel," said Mansur al-Awadi, director of international organizations for Kuwait's Foreign Ministry. "We are against the production of more atomic bombs."

"We want Iran, and every country, to abide by the norms and resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.

The G-15 organization, formed to foster cooperation with international groups such as the World Trade Organization, met on the sidelines of the Nonaligned Movement, which was formed with a very different mission: to establish a neutral third path in a world divided by allegiances to the United States and the Soviet Union.

Array of U.S. critics
The movement has grown to 118 members with the addition of Haiti and St. Kitts, and now features an array of U.S. critics.

But with a contentious debate looming at next week's U.N. General Assembly session in New York over Iran's nuclear ambitions and Venezuela's campaign for a security council seat, Chavez has been the most outspoken, declaring that developing countries must confront the "Washington consensus" that free trade and privatization would improve living conditions around the world.

Washington's model is dead, Chavez claimed Thursday, switching from Spanish to sing-song English as he taunted the U.S. government with images of global subservience to conservative economists and the International Monetary Fund: "Viva Washington, Yessir, Chicago Boys, Yessir, that's right, there's only one way, privatizations, FMI, Yessir!"

Observers in Havana include U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a high-level Chinese delegation. The United States declined an invitation to attend and said it would have no comment on any of the proceedings.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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