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Castro's health

From CNN's Lucia Newman in Havana

Castro tumbles after missing a step, breaking his left knee.
Wolf Blitzer Reports
Fidel Castro

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuba's 78-year-old president walked offstage Wednesday after giving a speech to graduating art teachers when he tripped.

Looking shaken, Fidel Castro took the microphone to explain that he had probably broken his knee and fractured an arm, a diagnosis that was later confirmed.

"But as you can see," he said, "I can still speak, even if I'm put in a cast, and I can continue to work."

Castro even joked he was anxious to see the photographs of his fall which, he predicted, would probably appear on the front pages of the international media.

In Cuba, there was no photo only a short statement in the official press.

The communist leader, who's held power longer than any head of state in the world, is aware his health has long been the subject of speculation. Three years ago he fainted while making a speech.

At times he has looked pale and thin and had difficulty walking. Castro's exact state of health is treated as a state secret in Cuba.

Thursday morning the top Communist Party leadership would only comment briefly.

"He's fine. He's a man of great strength and vitality and I'm sure he'll recover very quickly," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly.

In Washington, the Bush administration used the opportunity to reiterate its desire to see him removed from power.

"We heard that Castro fell," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "I guess you'd have to check with the Cubans to find out what's broken about Mr. Castro. We, obviously, have expressed our views about what's broken in Cuba."

When asked if he wished Castro a speedy recovery, Boucher said, "No."

"The situation in Cuba is of our primary concern," Boucher said. "The situation of Mr. Castro is of little concern to us, but, unfortunately, of enormous importance to the people of Cuba, who have suffered very long under his rule. And we think that the kind of rule that Cuba has had should be ended."

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