President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela said on Sunday that a tumour removed from his pelvic region during an operation in Havana was malignant, indicating that the cancer he was treated for last summer had returned.

In a broadcast from Havana, where he has been recovering from the operation, he said he would undergo radiation therapy.

Mr. Chavez, who is set to run for re-election in October, said he was recovering well from the surgery and that doctors had told him that there was no sign that the cancer had spread elsewhere in his body.

“We are very optimistic,” he said, calling his condition favourable.

Mr. Chavez's illness has been shrouded in mystery, leading to rampant speculation in Venezuela about its gravity and his ability to campaign or continue serving as President. Mr. Chavez has not revealed what type of cancer he has or exactly where the tumours are located. He said that the new tumour appeared in the same area as the original tumour, though it was much smaller.

He said that he would begin radiation therapy after taking a few more weeks to recover from the surgery.

Smiling and joking, Mr. Chavez made the broadcast while meeting with several Cabinet members. — New York Times News Service

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