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Fidel says Obama is 'absolutely sincere'

FIDEL Castro watched the United States presidential inauguration on television and said on Wednesday that Barack Obama seems "like a man who is absolutely sincere," Argentina's president said after meeting the ailing Cuban icon.

"Fidel believes in Obama," Cristina Fernandez said.

The meeting with Fernandez, just before she ended a four-day visit to Cuba, dispelled persistent rumors that the 82-year-old Castro had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma in recent days.

"I was with Fidel about an hour or more," she told reporters at the airport as she left. "We were chatting, conversing. He looked good."

Hours later, Castro issued his own account of the meeting in a brief essay that called Obama "honest" in his ideas.

Fernandez said Castro wore the track suit that has become his trademark since he fell ill in July 2006 and vanished from public view.

"He told me he had followed the inauguration of Barack Obama very closely, that he had watched the inauguration on television all day," Fernandez said. "He had a very good perception of President Obama."

Fernandez said Castro called Obama "a man who seems absolutely sincere," who believes strongly in his ideas "and who hopefully can carry them out."

Posted on a government Website, Castro's essay was his first such writing since December 15. The ailing leader's lengthy silence had fueled speculation that his health had taken a turn for the worse.

He wrote that the meeting with Fernandez lasted 40 minutes.

"I personally did not have the slightest doubt about the honesty of Obama," Castro said. "But despite noble intentions, there are still many questions to answer."

Earlier, Raul Castro said Obama "seemed like a good man" and wished him luck.


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