HAVANA: Cuban leader Fidel Castro has met Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at his bedside, the official newspaper Granma reported on Monday.

The newspaper published six pictures of the two in its online edition, showing Mr. Chavez shaking hands with the Cuban leader on his 80th birthday on Sunday in what appeared to be a ward room.

Also present was Mr. Castro's younger brother Raul, who was appointed as Cuba's acting President after Mr. Castro underwent intestinal surgery two weeks ago.

Mr. Chavez's visit came the same day that Mr. Castro issued a statement to the Cuban people, urging them to be patient and prepared for a long and difficult recovery process after his surgery, and to also be prepared to receive any news.

``I ask you to be optimistic and at the same time to be ready to face any adverse news,'' said the statement.

Granma described the meeting between Mr. Castro and Mr. Chavez as ``an unforgettable afternoon among brothers.''

Mr. Chavez is one of Mr. Castro's closest friends and political allies in Latin America.

It was reported that Bolivian President Evo Morales greeted Mr. Castro on his birthday on Sunday, and pledged to present him with a birthday cake made with coca leaves. Xinhua