Leaders inaugurating public works projects is a staple of Cuba, and a surprisingly spry-looking 86-year-old Fidel Castro has done it for the first time since stepping aside as president in 2006, media here reported on Thursday.

The elder of the Castro brothers opened the Havana school for 140 children that he himself had asked be built, said the web site Cubadebate.cu.

It showed photos of Castro dressed casually in a navy blue jacket and blue and white checked shirt, talking animatedly to children and adults.

The event on Tuesday was supposed to be held outdoors, but because of rain it was held inside, where Castro spoke for two hours with students and teachers about global warming, weapons of mass destruction, the economic crisis, fuel prices, food production and other current affairs, the site said.

Castro was replaced by his brother Raul after leaving office following a serious intestinal illness, and his public appearances since then have been rare.