Image: Cristina Fernandez, Raul Castro
Javier Galeano  /  AP
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez, left, and Cuba's President Raul Castro listen to students during a visit to the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana on Wednesday.
updated 1/21/2009 5:28:13 PM ET 2009-01-21T22:28:13

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez met with Cuba's ailing former leader Fidel Castro on Wednesday, easing rumors that his health had badly deteriorated.

Castro looked well and spoke about new U.S. President Barack Obama, Fernandez told reporters before leaving the Cuban capital, Havana.

"I was with Fidel about an hour. We talked a lot about Obama," Fernandez told reporters at Havana's airport. "He had a very good impression of Obama and he seemed to believe what he said."

"Fidel believes in Obama," she added.

"Now you know that Fidel is fine, and not like the rumors around here," Cuban President Raul Castro told the reporters at the airport.

It was the elder Castro's first confirmed meeting with a foreign leader since a Nov. 28 encounter with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The presidents of Panama and Ecuador visited earlier this month, but left without saying they had seen the former leader, adding to rumors that his health had deteriorated.

Absent from the public
Rumors that Castro, 82, is ill — or worse — have been fed by the fact he has not published any newspaper columns since Dec. 15 and by comments from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close friend and ally, that the Cuban leader may not be seen in public again.

The spokesman said their meeting was not part of Fernandez's agenda but was arranged by Raul Castro, who drove the Argentine leader to the meeting. But Fernandez and Fidel Castro met alone.

Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency surgery, reportedly for intestinal complications, in July 2006 and was replaced by his brother as Cuba's president in February.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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