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Castro blames U.S. for stoking nuclear tensions

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Castro makes rare TV appearance
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Castro blames U.S. for sinking of South Korean ship
  • Says any war with Iran would turn nuclear
  • Castro has been mostly out of sight since falling ill in July 2006
  • Photos of Fidel Castro were published on the Internet over the weekend

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- The United States is pushing for what would become nuclear wars against Iran and North Korea, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in a rare televised interview Monday.

Castro blamed the United States, not North Korea, for the sinking of a South Korean ship that killed 46 sailors. The incident was orchestrated to stir conflict in the region, Castro said.

The former Cuban leader, who is 83, said he was disappointed that China and Russia didn't veto a U.N. Security Council resolution for additional sanctions against Iran for its alleged illegal nuclear program.

Iran, he said, has been building up for a confrontation for 30 years. If the United States attacks Iran, it will meet a resistance unlike anything it faced in Iraq, Castro said.

"A war there can't avoid becoming nuclear," Castro said.

One subject Castro did not mention during the hour-long appearance was Monday's release of political prisoners.

Castro spoke on Cuban TV on a show called "Roundtable." He appeared in a dark blue tracksuit worn over a plaid shirt and sat on a swivel chair that he shifted at points during the interview.

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His remarks were based on a column published Monday of a possible nuclear war involving the United States and Iran, sparked by conflict over that country's nuclear activities.

News of Castro's television appearance appeared to resonate with some residents in the Cuban capital.

"[It's] extraordinary because we want to feel him, hear him, see him, because we haven't seen him in a long time," said Havana resident Ruben Morrejon Fernandez.

Monday's appearance was the second Castro sighting in the past few days. Three photographs of Castro surfaced Saturday on a pro-government blog, which claimed the photos were taken last Wednesday.

The set of three photos appear to show the ailing Castro meeting with people during "a surprise visit" at the National Center of Scientific Investigations in Havana, according to a blog published by columnist Rosa C. Baez.

An additional five photos -- appearing to be from the same event -- were published Saturday by the state-run media site Cubadebate.

Castro has been largely out of sight since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006. He ceded power to younger brother Raul Castro in February 2008.

The elder Castro's appearance follows last week's announcement of the largest release of Cuban political prisoners in more than a decade.

Cuba's Roman Catholic Church also announced Monday the names of the three more political prisoners set to be freed. They were identified as: Jesus Mustafa Felipe, Omar Rodriguez Saludes and Antonio R. Diaz Sanchez.

The first prisoners to be released are expected to arrive in Madrid on Tuesday, a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman told CNN on Monday.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos met with Cuban President Raul Castro and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega last week, after which the prisoner release was announced.

The 52 political prisoners Cuba plans to free are the remainder of 75 dissidents jailed during a government crackdown on political opposition in March 2003.

They represent roughly one-third of all known political prisoners left on the island, according to Cuba's unofficial Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

CNN's David Ariosto contributed to this report.

 
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