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Medical treatment for ailing Chavez

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has flown to Cuba to begin radiation therapy one month after undergoing surgery that removed a cancerous tumour.

Mr Chavez will be in Cuba at the same time as Pope Benedict XVI, who arrives on the communist-governed island on Monday after a visit to Mexico.

But Mr Chavez did not refer to the pope's upcoming visit to Havana.

The 57-year-old president describes himself as a Christian. He has regularly clashed with Catholic leaders in Venezuela, but during his illness has often publicly expressed faith in God that he will overcome cancer.

Mr Chavez said the radiation treatments are to begin right away.

He has been recovering from a February 26 surgery in Havana that he said removed a tumour from the same spot in his pelvic region where another tumour was extracted eight months earlier.

"I've decided, on the recommendation of my medical team and also my government political team, to begin ... radiation therapy treatment," Mr Chavez said in a televised meeting with aides. He described it as a "complement to the surgery that I underwent".

"Yesterday, they took out the last stitches that were left from the operation. Everything's very good. I've been walking much better. ... Without any sort of complication, thanks to God," he said.

At Caracas' international airport Saturday night, Mr Chavez held the hand of one of his daughters as he walked past soldiers standing at attention.

"I'll be back in a few days," he said. "You should know that radiation therapy is for various days, and after that a break, and after that other days and another break. So I'm going to be going and coming. It's possible that we may do some of the sessions here in Venezuela. We're evaluating it. What's most important, whether its there or here, is the effectiveness of the treatment."

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