HAVANA -- Cuban President Raul Castro on Thursday affirmed that he will leave office in April 2018, when the country's new national legislature convenes to elect a leader for the next five years.

"When the National Assembly convenes, I will conclude my second and last mandate as leader of the state and government, and Cuba will have a new president," Castro said at the closing of the plenary session of the assembly.

The Cuban parliament approved on Thursday a decision to extend Castro's mandate for two more months until April 2018, citing the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Irma to the country in September.

However, he is expected to remain as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba for at least three more years.

Raul Castro, who took over power from his brother Fidel Castro in 2008 and was re-elected to a second term in 2013, has overseen the modernization of Cuba's socialist system and spearheaded a series of reforms.

Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September, left 10 people dead and caused huge damage, forcing the authorities to postpone for a month the first stage of the electoral process, scheduled in October.

The electoral process started on November 26 with the election of the municipal councilors, and "therefore, it is impossible for the next legislature to begin its mandate on Feb. 24, 2018 as planned," said a news release by the parliament. (Xinhua)