December 18, 2007 / 12:02 AM / 10 years ago

Castro hints he will not hold on to power

<p>Television footage shows Cuban leader Fidel Castro speaking during a state television broadcast September 21, 2007. Castro suggested on Monday that he will not hold on to power or obstruct the rise of younger leaders, in a letter read on Cuban television. REUTERS/via REUTERS TV</p>

HAVANA (Reuters) - Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public for 16 months, suggested on Monday he might give up his formal leadership posts -- the first time he has spoken of his possible retirement.

“My elemental duty is not to hold on to positions and less to obstruct the path of younger people,” the 80-year-old Castro said in a letter read on Cuban state television.

Castro, who took power in a 1959 revolution, handed over temporarily to his brother Raul in July 2006 after undergoing stomach surgery for an undisclosed illness.

Cuba’s National Assembly could formalize Castro’s retirement as head of state when it approves the members of the executive Council of State in March.

Castro said his duty is “to contribute experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional times that I have lived through.”

His comments at the end of the letter read out on a daily current affairs program on television suggested Castro would not resume office but instead continue in the role of elder statesman advising the country’s communist government on key issues.

Castro holds the posts of president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, and first secretary of the ruling Communist Party.

Since March this year, Castro has dedicated himself to writing dozens of essays and newspaper columns on world affairs, but had not mentioned his future role until now.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle, Editing by Kieran Murray

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