Argentine friend of Fidel Castro tells Buenos Aires daily about Cuban leader's recovery

Fidel Castro says he has regained almost half the weight lost after his recent surgery, according to an an old Argentine friend who on Thursday published an account of his meeting with the Cuban leader.

Miguel Bonasso, a leftist congressional deputy attending the Nonaligned Summit in Havana this week, wrote in the pro-government newspaper Pagina/12 that Castro appeared to be "the same Fidel as always" during their visit on Wednesday. "Thinner, that's the truth, but not as much as the recent photos had shown him to be."

Bonasso's written account was accompanied by a photo of the two men standing and greeting each other one of the pictures that Cuban state television had broadcast the night before. He wrote that he found Castro in better health than he expected.

"The knot I had brought along in my throat loosened immediately: it may sound incredible, but Fidel was as lucid and penetrating as ever," Bonasso wrote.

Bonasso wrote that Castro told him he's slowly recovering from the intestinal surgery in late July that prompted him to temporarily cede power to his brother Defense Minister Raul Castro for the first time in 47 years.

"I lost 41 pounds," Bonasso quoted Castro as saying, "but I am putting weight back on now almost half of what I lost."

Bonasso, who also is a close ally of center-left President Nestor Kirchner, said he was in Havana when he was suddenly summoned to Castro's living quarters, where he found the Cuban leader seated on his bed beside a small white table, reports AP.

"He got up and gave me a hug," Bonasso wrote, and then the men discussed subjects including Cuba's international medical programs and Venezuelan efforts to win a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Bonasso quoted Castro as saying "They won't be able to block his entry," apparently referring to the Washington-led lobbying effort against Venezuela and in favor of Guatemala for a council seat.

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