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UPDATED: 09:06, December 24, 2004
Castro walks in public since fall
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A smiling Fidel Castro walked in public Thursday for the first time since the 78-year-old Cuban leader fell two months ago, and lawmakers attending a year-end National Assembly meeting gave him a standing ovation.

Castro entered the room on the arm of a uniformed school girl, then walked in front of the gathered lawmakers and up some steps before taking his seat on stage at Havana's Convention Palace.

"Long live Fidel!" a lone deputy shouted, followed by chants of "Long live a free Cuba!"

Castro, 78, made headlines around the globe when he stumbled and fell Oct. 20 in the central city of Santa Clara, shattering his left kneecap and breaking his right arm.

After staying out of the spotlight for several weeks, Castro began making public appearances again. In November, he surprised many when he suddenly stood up from his wheelchair during a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, leaning on a metal cane with an arm support.

Last week, he stood unassisted for several minutes during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Until Thursday, however, he had not been seen walking in public.

Wearing his traditional olive green uniform, Castro stood tall and looked quite proud as he walked, albeit slowly and a bit stiffly. Two men stood nearby as he climbed the stairs �� one of the hardest things to do after breaking a kneecap, according to doctors.

In the last several years, Castro's knees have seemed more wobbly, his step less steady. But given his age, he appears to be strong and maintains a busy schedule that frequently includes all-night meetings with aides and visitors.

After his accident, presidents and high-profile friends around the globe sent Castro get-well wishes. American movie director Oliver Stone sent a letter saying Castro could play the movie role of "Superman's grandfather" for handling the operations and recovery so well.

Source: Agencies

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