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Spanish surgeon: Castro doesn't have cancer

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Castro faces long recovery but could govern again, surgeon says
• Assessment comes after Castro skipped appearances
• Surgeon's statement in line with Cuban government officials
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Cuban President Fidel Castro is recovering from his ailments and does not have cancer, according to a Spanish surgeon who has met with him and consulted with the leader's medical team.

Castro is doing "fantastically well" with treatment, said Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido, chief of surgery at the public hospital Gregorio Maranon de Madrid, at a news conference Tuesday.

Castro, 80, underwent intestinal surgery on July 31, and has not been seen in public since. The Cuban government has released at least one video of him.

Earlier this month, the president bowed out of an appearance for his 80th birthday party because he was too ill, adding fuel to rumors he was near death. His birthday was actually in August, but the festivities were delayed.

Although Castro's doctors have not revealed their diagnosis, U.S. officials have said it is possible the leader is suffering from a form of cancer in or around the abdomen.

Garcia Sabrido, who was briefed by Castro's doctors, disputed such reports, saying the leader faces a long recovery and may be able to govern again.

Garcia Sabrido is a specialist in general surgery who last month led a conference at the 9th Cuban Congress of Surgery in Havana.

The fact that Castro stopped smoking in the mid-1980s is a plus for his health, the surgeon said.

It was unclear whether Garcia Sabrido actually examined the president; he provided no specifics about the leader's illness but said he planned to track Castro's progress.

Garcia Sabrido had traveled to Cuba aboard a Cuban government plane on Thursday, and the Cuban Embassy oversaw all details of the visit, the newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya reported Sunday.

The plane carried medical equipment, some of which is not available in Havana, the paper said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has visited with Castro and denies the diagnosis involves cancer.

The president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told journalists Saturday that he plans to visit Castro in Cuba in mid-January.

Cuban government officials told a U.S. congressional delegation last week that Castro is not dying and does not have cancer, a member of the delegation said.

After his surgery, Castro temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul Castro, the country's longtime defense minister. The change in leadership caused fierce speculation over whether Fidel Castro was close to death.

Castro was absent Friday when the National Assembly of People's Power convened for its second and last session of 2006. His brother sat next to his empty chair.

CNN's David Ariosto contributed to this report.

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