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Castro: I quit party post five years ago

Fidel Castro said yesterday that he resigned five years ago from all his official positions, including head of Cuba's Communist Party, a position he was thought to still hold.

It was the first time the 84-year-old revolutionary icon has said he no longer heads the Communist Party, which he led since its creation in 1965. His comments come just weeks ahead of a crucial party congress, in which it was widely expected that a new party leader would be picked – presumably his brother Raul Castro.

Fidel Castro wrote in an opinion piece that when fell ill in 2006, "I resigned without hesitation from my state and political positions, including first secretary of the party... and I never tried to exercise those roles again." He said that even when his health improved, he stayed out of state and party affairs "even though everyone, affectionately, continued to refer to me by the same titles".

In an official proclamation on 31 July 2006, Mr Castro provisionally delegated most of his official duties to his brother, including the presidency and head of the party.

In February 2008, he announced he was officially stepping down as president, and Raul Castro was formally picked to succeed him by the country's parliament a few days later. But no reference was made to Fidel Castro leaving his party post, and Cuban officials and have referred to him as the party leader ever since.