Cuba's Fidel Castro laments loss of 'best friend' Hugo Chavez

HAVANA (AP) - Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro has broken nearly a week of silence since the death of friend and ally Hugo Chavez, calling the late Venezuelan president Cuba's "best friend".

Mr Castro said in an editorial published in Communist Party newspaper Granma that Mr Chavez's delicate health was well known, but news of his passing on March 5 nonetheless came as a shock.

The 86-year-old Mr Castro has all but ceased penning his once-regular columns known as "Reflections". Last October, he explained that he decided to do so because they were taking up valuable space in state media that was needed for other purposes.

His column on Mr Chavez was carried on Monday in Granma and other official newspapers.