A Spanish doctor says ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro is making a "slow but progressive" recovery from intestinal surgery.

Dr. Jose Luis Garcia Sebrido, the head of surgery at Madrid's Gregorio Maranon Hospital, examined Mr. Castro in Havana in December. The 80-year-old Cuban leader has not been seen in public since undergoing surgery last July.

Garcia Sebrido tells Reuters the Cuban leader's condition is serious because of his advanced age, but adds that he could return to his normal activities if he makes a full recovery.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on Wednesday that Mr. Castro suffered serious complications because he chose to undergo a risky surgical procedure. Garcia Sebrido says the report is untrue.

The Cuban government treats Mr. Castro's health as a state secret.