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Ailing Chavez will lose his hair

President Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans that he expects to lose his hair as a result of his cancer treatment.

Mr Chavez underwent a first round of chemotherapy in Cuba last week, and he said he plans to keep working while undergoing a second phase of treatment.

He joked that he may soon look like the late actor Yul Brynner with his shaved head. "Surely within not many days, you will see a bald Chavez. Do you remember Yul Brynner? I'll be a bit like Yul Chavez. My hair is going to start to fall out ... for some months," he said in a telephone call broadcast live on state television.

Mr Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumour, which he has said was the size of a baseball. He has not said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with or specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region.

It is unclear how long the process might continue. Mr Chavez has said tests have not found any signs that malignant cells have reappeared.

Mr Chavez beat on his chest and part of his abdomen during his televised appearance, saying it was not colon surgery and that his 40 stitches from the operation have been removed. "I'm quite recovered," he said.

Mr Chavez, who turns 57 today, accused his opponents of celebrating his illness in a "macabre show". He also denied accusations by some opponents that he was using his illness for a "political show".

The leftist president has been in office since 1999 and is seeking another six-year term in 2012. He has suggested in the past that he hopes to keep winning re-election to remain president for many years to come. Yesterday, he expressed optimism that he is headed "for 2031".

Mr Chavez condemned recent remarks by officials in President Barack Obama's administration, including the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who reportedly expressed concerns about Venezuela's growing ties with Iran.

"We're a free country, Mr Obama, and we have relations of cooperation," Mr Chavez said. "Go worry about your own things, decadent empire."

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