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Cuban Media: Castro Speaks by Telephone With Officials

Ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro has spoken by telephone with Cuban officials, as U.S. officials speculate about the state of his health.

Cuban state media report Mr. Castro participated by telephone on Friday in a work session of provincial officials. The newspaper Granma reports that after Mr. Castro heard a summary of the discussions, the officials gave him a round of applause. There were no other details.

Friday, a U.S. newspaper quoted the director of U.S. national intelligence, John Negroponte, as saying Mr. Castro is very ill and could die within months rather than years.

Meanwhile, a group of U.S. lawmakers is in Havana, reportedly seeking a meeting with Fidel Castro's younger brother, Raul. Raul Castro is running the country while Fidel Castro is ill.

Friday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in a speech in Caracas that he had spoken with Mr. Castro by telephone twice the day before. Mr. Chavez denied that Mr. Castro has cancer.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Reuters news agency she thinks there will be pressure for change in Cuba after Mr. Castro's death. She said the best way to handle that pressure is through a democratic process.

A senior official in the U.S. State Department said this week he does not foresee any change in U.S. policy toward Cuba until a leader there commits to change.

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