HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro emerged from seclusion on Monday to warn the world in a taped interview aired on national television that the West’s confrontation with Iran could erupt into nuclear war.
The bearded 83-year-old commandante, sitting at a small desk and wearing a dark windbreaker over a plaid shirt, looked alert, but showed his years as he spun a complicated scenario in which his old foe the United States was the main culprit.
He said nuclear war could break out when the United States, in alliance with Israel, tries to enforce international sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities.
“When they launch war, they’re going to launch it there. It cannot help but be nuclear,” he said. “I believe the danger of war is growing a lot. They are playing with fire,” he said.
Castro has been seen only in occasional photographs and videos since he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 and ceded power provisionally to his younger brother, Raul Castro. He resigned in February 2008 and Raul Castro was officially elected president by the National Assembly.
Castro spoke haltingly at first, but gathered steam as he outlined long grievances against the United States and detailed its large store of nuclear arms and heavy military spending.
“The United States spends more than all the other countries together on defense,” he said disapprovingly, leafing through papers to check his facts.
His seclusion suddenly ended on Saturday, when first a blogger, then the government said Castro had appeared on Wednesday at the National Center of Scientific Investigations.
Last year, Venezuelan President and close ally Hugo Chavez said Castro had been going for walks near his Havana residence, but they were never confirmed by the government and there were no known photos of him out and about.
He appeared twice in videotaped interviews in 2007.
His latest television appearance came as Cuba was preparing to ship the first of 52 political prisoners to Spain in a deal with the Catholic Church, but he did not mention the event.
All the prisoners were jailed in a crackdown on the opposition in 2003 while Castro was still in power.
Castro writes opinion columns, or “Reflections,” for Cuba’s state-run media that in recent weeks have focused on his war predictions. “The empire is at the point of committing a terrible error that nobody can stop. It advances inexorably toward a sinister fate,” he wrote on July 5.
The “empire” is how Castro usually refers to the United States, his bitter foe from the time he took power in Cuba in a 1959 revolution.
In a column published on Sunday night, Castro did not specifically mention his nuclear fears, but said the “principal purpose” of his writings has been to “warn international public opinion of what was occurring.”
He said he has reached his dire conclusion based in part on “observing what happened, as the political leader that I was during many years, confronting the empire, its blockades and its unspeakable crimes.”
The columns have attracted little attention internationally and caused little reaction in Cuba, but Castro promised to continue warning the world of the coming disaster.
“I don’t hesitate in running risks of compromising my modest moral authority,” he wrote on Sunday. “I will continue writing ‘Reflections’ about the topic.”
Editing by Todd Eastham
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