Castro given increased powers

HAVANA (Reuter) - Cuba's parliament has increased the constitutional powers of President Fidel Castro, giving him the right to declare a state of emergency and head a National Defence Council.

Cuban state media reported yesterday that wider powers for the Communist head of state were contained in modifications to the 1976 constitution approved in principle by the National Assembly on Saturday night.

The Assembly also approved a proposal to elect deputies by direct, secret national voting. They had previously been appointed through an indirect voting system. The parliament was analysing a package of constitutional reforms expected to be endorsed late yesterday by a vote of at least two-thirds of its more than 450 members.