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Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez for the first time named a successor if anything happened to him after he revealed his cancer had returned and he would undergo another operation in the coming days.
The development is a blow for his supporters, who elected him in October to a new six-year term in office. Since mid-2011 Chavez has twice said he was cured, and then had to have more surgery.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would undergo another cancer operation in the coming days after doctors in Cuba found a third recurrence of malignant cells in his pelvic area.
Fears have been raised over the political future of the 58-year-old president who has already had three cancer operations in Cuba since the middle of last year.
News of more surgery will likely raise new doubts about his political future and the fate of his self-styled "revolution" in the OPEC nation.
In his comments on Saturday, Chavez sat alongside members of his Cabinet, including Vice President Nicolas Maduro and Congress head Diosdado Cabello, two close and powerful allies who might look to replace him if Chavez were to leave office.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said he will undergo another cancer operation in the coming days after doctors found malignant cells during tests in Cuba.
Chavez said in a televised broadcast: "It is necessary for me to have a new intervention in the coming days."
He added that he would return to Havana. The socialist leader had flown back to Venezuela on Friday after the tests in Cuba.