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Castro Says He Will Not Retain Power Forever

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro said he does not intend to cling to power forever.

In a letter read on Cuba's state television, Castro said he does not want to stand in the way of a younger generation.

The 81-year-old Castro has not been seen in public since he temporarily ceded his powers to his younger brother, Raul, in July 2006.

"My elemental duty is not to cling to positions or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived," Castro wrote in the final paragraph of a lengthy letter Monday discussing the Bali summit on global warming.

Castro's thoughts about power and making way for younger leaders were similar to past comments before he became ill.

Castro Remains President

Castro officially remains the president of Cuba's Council of State, making him the country's head of government. Several times a week he writes essays, many of them on international issues, that are carried on state media.

In Monday's letter, Castro invoked the example of renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who turned 100 on Saturday.

"I think like Niemeyer that you have to be of consequence up to the end," Castro wrote.

A lifelong communist, Niemeyer helped design the U.N. headquarters and the main buildings of Brazil's capital; he won the 1988 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Candidate for Re-election

Despite his physical absence from public life, Castro is a candidate for re-election as a deputy to the National Assembly, or parliament, in Jan. 20 national elections.

Within weeks after that balloting, the newly formed parliament is expected to select a new Council of State and its president, but there has been no official word on Castro's role.

Cuba's unchallenged leader since 1959, Castro has held the council presidency since its 1976 creation.

When the parliament re-elected Castro to his sixth term as Council of State president in March 2003, Castro said he would stay in power only as long as he felt he was contributing.

"I promise that I will be with you, if you so wish, for as long as I feel that I can be useful — and if it is not decided by nature before — not a minute less and not a second more," he said at the time. "Now, I understand that it was not my destiny to rest at the end of my life."

From NPR reports and The Associated Press