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Castro ends silence on US-Cuba thaw

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has ended his long silence over his country's decision to restore diplomatic ties with the United States, writing that he backs the negotiations even though he distrusts politics in Washington.

The comments were the first by the 88-year-old revolutionary leader (inset) on the talks with the US since the historic December 17 declaration that the countries would move to restore ties broken more than half-a-century ago.

"I don't trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this does not mean I reject a pacific solution to the conflicts," he wrote in a letter dated January 26 to a student federation read at out the University of Havana.

It also appeared in Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including with our political adversaries," he wrote.

Two weeks ago, Castro sent a letter to soccer legend Diego Maradona to quash rumours of his death. At the time, it was the first reported word from him in nearly three months.

A serious illness forced Castro to step down from duties as president, handing over leadership to his younger brother Raul.

The speculation about Castro's health had been prompted in part by his failure to comment on the last month's US-Cuban declaration.