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World in brief: Castro makes call to radio talk show

Cuban leader Fidel Castro – in his first live comments since falling ill more than six months ago – declared on Tuesday that he feels “more energetic, stronger” and said his country is running smoothly without him at the helm.

Calling in to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s radio talk show, Castro said, “I feel good and I’m happy.”

“I can’t promise that I’ll go over there soon, but, yes, I’m gaining ground. I feel more energetic, stronger,” he told his close friend Chavez in a soft but steady voice during the live broadcast.

The 80-year-old Castro transferred control of Cuba’s government to his brother Raul after undergoing intestinal surgery in July and dropped out of public view, fueling speculation about his condition.

In previous videos released by the Cuban government, Castro has been heard speaking but the comments were pre-taped. In Tuesday’s conversation, Castro mentioned a plunge in U.S. and Chinese stocks earlier in the day.

Seoul, South Korea

N. Korea proposes project resumption

North Korea today proposed a resumption of humanitarian projects at the first high-level talks with South Korea in the wake of Pyongyang’s nuclear test, heralding renewed reconciliation between the Koreas after the North pledged to dismantle its atomic program.

Further details were not immediately given in a South Korean pool report on the comments during meetings in Pyongyang, but it apparently referred to reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War. The issue also could refer to rice and fertilizer aid the South has regularly given to North Korea to help support its impoverished people.

The reunions were put on hold last year after the South refused to continue aid shipments following North Korea’s missile tests in July. Relations further worsened after the October nuclear test but have been revitalized since the North’s Feb. 13 pledge to take initial steps toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program by shutting down its sole operating atomic reactor within 60 days.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

French nationals brutally slain

Three French nationals who ran a nonprofit group that helps poor children were stabbed to death Tuesday at their headquarters near Rio’s Copacabana beach and authorities arrested three suspects, police said.

The grisly slayings that left one of the victims decapitated were part of a botched scheme to protect a Brazilian accountant, Tarsio Wilson Ramires, 25, accused of stealing money from the group, police said.

A doorman at the building heard screams from the third-floor office and captured the accountant as he tried to flee with a safe, police inspector Marcus Castro said. Two other suspects were arrested within hours.


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