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Minister tells of 'laughing' Chavez

VENEZUELA'S President Hugo Chavez is joking and laughing with visitors as he recovers from cancer surgery, the country's Foreign Minister has said.

Elias Jaua met Mr Chavez in Cuba and gave details on his Twitter account.

He said the ailing leader made decisions about Venezuela's participation in this weekend's Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit. Mr Jaua wrote: "I transmit all his blessings and love for you, his beloved Venezuelan people. Viva Chavez!"

He did not provide any specific details on Mr Chavez's illness or say how long their meeting lasted.

Venezuela's socialist President has not been seen or heard from in public since his operation in Cuba on December 11, and was unable to make his scheduled inauguration for a new term earlier this month.

On Sunday, Vice-president Nicolas Maduro said Mr Chavez is finishing a post-operative phase of his treatment and will enter a new phase of treatment, which he said would be announced. "He's climbing the hill," Mr Maduro said.

The opposition wants more information on Mr Chavez's condition.

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