President Fidel Castro, dismissing supposed differences between himself and visiting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, said it would be "absurd" for a tiny country like Cuba to apply Soviet-style economic and political reforms.

"There are no differences, no disagreement whatsoever between Cuba and the Soviet Union," Castro said Tuesday in a 45-minute speech introducing Gorbachev to a special session of the Assembly of People's Power - Cuba's parliament."The differences between Comrade Gorbachev and myself are illusions concocted by some people who start from a simplistic analysis of the way in the Soviet Union they are carrying out the process of restructuring, or perestroika, and the way we are carrying out our process of rectification," the Cuban leader said.

Castro, who has tried to eliminate all traces of capitalism in Cuba, has indicated opposition to the types of economic and political reforms now under way in the Soviet Union.

Before Gorbachev's speech, police arrested at least eight dissidents in an apparent attempt to disrupt plans to stage a rally outside the Soviet Embassy, activist Fernando Sanchez said. Sanchez said the demonstration, intended to "show support for Gorbachev's democratic reforms," was canceled out of fear more arrests would be made.

Castro lauded Gorbachev's recent proposal for a 30-year moratorium on Third World debt, amid earlier speculation that Gorbachev might forgive the estimated $10 billion that Cuba owes to the Soviet Union. Gorbachev said at a news conference later Tuesday that he had expressed his willingness to pardon the debt, "but we have agreed to continue consultations before taking concrete steps."