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Algeria storm toll hits 579

The death toll in floods that inundated the Algerian capital and several neighboring towns climbed to 579 on Monday, with an unknown number of people still missing, the interior minister said.

The torrential downpour on Saturday left at least 4,000 families homeless, Interior Minister Nourredine Yazid Zerhouni told state-run radio.

Anger mounted as rescue workers continued to unearth victims from the rubble of buildings that collapsed in the deluge of mud and water. Monday's newspapers accused authorities of being slow to respond to the disaster.

The government announced it would provide housing and financial assistance to victims. In a departure from its usual go-it-alone stance, it also called for international help.

STORM TOLL IN VIETNAM REACHES 18: Typhoon Lingling roared ashore in central Vietnam on Monday, killing at least 18 people, knocking out power and destroying hundreds of homes.

The storm, which left 171 confirmed dead and another 118 missing in the Philippines, brought 83 mph gusts when it hit Vietnam between Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces, the National Center for Hydro Meteorology said.

Ex-Polish leader defends shootings

WARSAW _ Former Polish communist chief Wojciech Jaruzelski, on trial for the shootings of shipyard workers in 1970, testified Monday that police fired only after the demonstrators had shot first.

Jaruzelski, 78, denied issuing the order authorizing troops to use firearms but said the order was justified after state buildings and cars were set afire, shops looted, trams derailed and firearms seized by some demonstrators in Gdansk.

The retired general is accused of issuing orders for soldiers to fire at workers protesting food price increases Dec. 14-18, 1970, when he was defense minister. At least 44 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in the Baltic coast cities of Gdynia, Gdansk, Szczecin and Elblag.

Jaruzelski and six co-defendants, mostly former military commanders, could face long prison terms if convicted.

Jaruzelski was Poland's leader from 1981 until the communist regime was ousted by the Solidarity movement in 1989 elections.

Zimbabwe bans whites from farming

HARARE, Zimbabwe _ The Zimbabwean government on Monday banned 1,000 white farmers from cultivating their fields and gave them three months to vacate their homes as part of its "fast track" land redistribution plan.

The government has targeted 5,000 white-owned commercial farms, about 95 percent of all farms owned by whites, for seizure and redistribution to landless blacks.

In a government gazette released Monday, President Robert Mugabe invoked special powers forcing the 1,000 farmers who had already received notification their land was being seized to stop all work on it, regardless of whether they had crops waiting to be harvested or appeals of the seizures pending in court.

They were given three months to leave their houses.

Opposition officials accuse the government of using land seizures to garner support and further intimidate political opponents ahead of presidential elections next year.

Leftist party wins Mexican election

MORELIA, Mexico _ Mexico's leftist party claimed the governor's seat in Michoacan state, handing a victory to a member of one of Mexico's most important political families and dealing another blow to the country's former ruling party.

Lazaro Cardenas, 37, of the Democratic Revolution Party, claimed victory late Sunday over Alfredo Anaya of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. With 94 percent of the vote counted Monday, Cardenas had 41.6 percent of the vote, compared with 36.8 percent for Anaya.

The candidate for President Vicente Fox's National Action Party, Salvador Lopez, was running a distant third, with 18.7 percent.

The race was an important test of Mexico's largest leftist party, which has struggled amid internal divisions since losing the presidency to Fox in July 2000.

Cardenas' father, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, came in a distant third to Fox in his third run for the presidency. The loss created a power struggle for Democratic Revolution's leadership.

Ancient beermaking recipe found

DAMASCUS, Syria _ A Syrian-Belgian-British archaeological mission unearthed 3,800-year-old Babylonian beermaking instructions on cuneiform tablets at a dig in northern Syria.

Abdel-Massih Baghdo, director of the Hassakeh Archaeological Department, said the 92 tablets were found in the 14th layer of Tell Shagher, a site just north of Hassakeh. He said the tablets showed beermaking methods and tallied quantities of beer produced and distributed in the region.

Elsewhere . . .

EURO ON TRACK, EU SAYS: Fifty days from the New Year's launch of euro banknotes and coins in 12 European Union nations, the EU head office in Brussels said Monday it is confident the currency's introduction will be trouble-free. Gerassimos Thomas, financial affairs spokesman, released an opinion poll that showed a majority of people in the 12 countries think the euro will be beneficial for them.