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Cuba Dismisses US Calls for Democratic Change

Cuba is dismissing U.S. calls for democratic change, as leader Fidel Castro continues to recover from surgery.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged to support Cubans who desire "peaceful democratic change" during a message broadcast Friday over U.S.-backed Radio and TV Marti. Rice also encouraged other democratic nations to pressure Havana to released imprisoned political prisoners.

But Abel Prieto, Cuba's cultural minister, says Rice's comments were of no value to residents of the Caribbean island nation.

Castro, who turns 80 years old this month, handed over power Monday to his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, due to abdominal surgery. Neither man has been seen in public since the transition was announced.

Cuban officials have since released a number of statements insisting that Fidel Castro was recovering, and that Raul Castro was firmly in charge.

The editor of Cuba's Communist Youth newspaper, Rogelio Polanco, told state television Thursday that Cuba will defend itself against any U.S. attempt to force change. White House spokesman Tony Snow later dismissed such concerns as "absurd."

Cuban exiles in the United States have been pushing for political change on the island, and some celebrated news of Fidel Castro's ill health.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.