Ailing President Hugo Chavez will not be fit in time for Thursday's scheduled inauguration and plans to take the oath of office at a later date before the Supreme Court, the speaker of Venezuela's National Assembly said.

Chavez "will not be able to appear on that date before the National Assembly," Diosdado Cabello said Tuesday from the legislative podium, reading from a message sent by Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

The 58-year-old head of state, who won another term in the October elections, remains hospitalized in Cuba almost four weeks after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.

"The commander-president has requested that it be reported that, according to the recommendations of the medical team who are working for the reestablishment of his health, the post-surgical recovery process will have to be extended beyond the ... tenth of January," said the message.

Chavez has decided to invoke Article 231 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which allows a president to take the oath before the country's highest court under certain circumstances.

Venezuela's opposition insists that if Chavez fails to be sworn in on Thursday, the clock will start ticking on the 180-day maximum period during which Maduro can serve as acting president before having to call fresh elections.

Chavez, who took office in 1999, is supposed to serve until 2019.

The government says the president is battling "complications stemming from a severe lung infection" that developed after his Dec. 11 operation in Havana. EFE