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Chavez 'recovering' after surgery

New videos and photos of president Hugo Chavez have appeared on state television, showing him on his feet and talking with Fidel Castro more than two weeks after undergoing urgent surgery in Cuba.

An aide to the Venezuelan leader said the encounter in Cuba took place earlier in the day.

"We see him recovering," information minister Andres Izarra said on state television as the short video clips and photographs were shown of Mr Chavez standing and talking outdoors with Mr Castro.

Cuban state TV also broadcast pictures of the get-together.

They were the first images of Mr Chavez to be released since he appeared with both Fidel and Raul Castro in photographs taken 11 days earlier and published in Cuban media.

But neither the new images nor government officials provided details about Mr Chavez's health.

Despite assurances that he is doing well, the lack of information since the government announced on June 10 that Mr Chavez had undergone pelvic surgery has spurred talk among Venezuelans that he might be very ill.

Officials did not say when Mr Chavez might return to Venezuela, which next week will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Mr Chavez seemed healthy and animated as he talked and smiled alongside Mr Castro in a courtyard fringed with trees, and also sitting down indoors. Mr Chavez wore a track suit jacket with the colours of Venezuela's flag while Mr Castro sported a red baseball cap and a blue and white track suit.

"There we are seeing commander Chavez very dynamic," Mr Izarra said, describing the images and adding that he spoke with Mr Chavez earlier about government-related issues.

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