Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who ruled the country for nearly half a century, announced Tuesday that he is stepping down as president.
In a written statement, published on the official Communist party's website Granma, Castro said he would not accept a new term as president when the newly elected parliament meets on Sunday.
"I will not aspire nor accept, I repeat, I will not aspire or accept — the post of president of the council of state and commander in chief," read the letter signed by the 81-year-old president.
Although there has been much speculation about his position as leader since he fell ill in July 2006, there had been no advance warning of Castro's plan to permanently give up power.
The new National Assembly is meeting Sunday for first time since January elections to pick the governing council of state, including the presidency Castro holds.
Castro had temporarily relinquished power to his 76-year-old brother Raul on July 31, 2006, when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery. Raul had long been his brother's designated successor.