HAVANA Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, looking thin but animated, was shown on Cuban TV on Tuesday with his brother, President Raul Castro, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in the first public images of the bearded revolutionary since January.
Castro, 81 and not fully recovered from 2006 intestinal surgery, was shown in a video sitting outside laughing and talking with the two men, then standing as he bid Chavez farewell at the end of what TV newscasters said was an hour-long meeting in the morning.
As in all recent images, he was wearing an athletic suit jacket.
Castro, who led Cuba for 49 years after taking power in a 1959 revolution, has not been seen in person since the July 2006 surgery that forced him to provisionally cede power to Raul Castro.
He has occasionally surfaced in videos and photographs, but was last seen in the video of a January meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Castro writes occasional newspaper columns, but his long absence from public view had fed rumors that his health was failing.
Newscasters said the two Castros and Chavez discussed a wide range of topics including a global food crisis and the U.S. presidential election.
Fidel Castro and Chavez also met on Monday for three hours, according to state-run media.
Venezuela and Cuba have forged close ties since Chavez took office and put a socialist stamp on the Venezuelan economy. He has visited Castro frequently during his long convalescence.
Raul Castro formally became Cuban president in February in a vote of the National Assembly after his older brother resigned.
(Reporting by Jeff Franks, editing by Philip Barbara)