On Saturday, former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro (photo, from aljazeera.net), has delivered his first speech to the national assembly since resigning over ill health two years ago.
At the sight of Castro, the chamber erupted into applause.
The former leader was wearing his familiar olive-green fatigues but without his commandante’s insignia.
In his uncharacteristically short speech, just over 10 minutes, he urged the US not to allow a war with Iran. In the past his speeches ran to hours.
At his side while he spoke sat his brother Raul, who succeeded him as president.
It was the first time the two had appeared together in public since Fidel Castro stepped down.
BBC’s Michael Voss reporting from Havana, said the speech was a solid, polished performance, Mr Castro’s voice stronger than at any point since he re-emerged into public life.
Fidel entered the chamber on the arm of a subordinate, waving and smiling as the crowd applauded loudly in unison.
‘Not in the government’
After his speech, the former president sat on for about an hour and 10 minutes, listening to questions from deputies on foreign affairs and responding to them.
He warned of the risk of a “nuclear holocaust” involving the US and Iran.
He accused the US of planning to attack Iran and North Korea and urged President Barack Obama to prevent such a conflict happening.
The US and other countries have accused Iran of seeking to develop illegal nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.
“If war breaks out the current social order will suddenly disappear and the price will be infinitely greater,” Mr Castro said.
When on deputy asked him if Obama would be capable of starting a nuclear war, Fidel Castro answered : “No, not if we persuade him not to.”
Despite his health problems, Fidel Castro remains first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and has become more active in the last month, giving television interviews and talking in public to selected groups.
BBC’s Michael Voss in Havana reports that observers are watching the body language between Fidel and Raul Castro closely.
Before the speech, culture minister Abel Prieto told the BBC that Fidel Castro was not about to re-enter the government.
“I think that he has always been in Cuba’s political life but he is not in the government,” he said.
“He has been very careful about that. His big battle is international affairs.”
Fidel’s brother Raul, 79, has personally dismissed any suggestion that there is a divide in the Communist Party leadership over the direction of policy, particularly as his government attempts to liberalise parts of Cuba’s state-run economy.