THE AMERICAS

More Rain, More Flooding in Mexico

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico--Thousands of people clung to their rooftops yesterday to escape flooding in the Gulf state of Tabasco as a tropical depression dumped torrential rains on central Mexico.

At least 110 people have died because of flooding in nine states. Local media said the death toll could rise as more victims are recovered from mudslides.

The Mexican television network Televisa said 74 people have died in the central state of Puebla, where flood waters raged through mountain villages and rainfall in some areas topped 15 inches in one day.

Heavy rains fueled by the season's 11th tropical depression have caused southeastern Mexico's worst flooding in 40 years and have forced 100,000 people from their homes in the past week. Hundreds of eastern Mexican towns and villages were isolated by flooded roads and highways. Thousands of people trying to leave the area were stranded at bus stations.

Quito Cleans Up After Volcanic Blast

QUITO, Ecuador--Ecuadorans wearing surgical masks swept the streets of their capital, Quito, left white by tons of ash dumped by the smoldering Guagua Pinchincha volcano. Quito Mayor Roque Sevilla called for calm and said there was no need to fear an imminent eruption of the volcano, which looms over the Andean mountain city of 1.2 million people.

The 16,000-foot volcano belched a huge cloud of ash over a wide area of Quito on Tuesday. The ash fell like choking snow, irritating lungs and covering parked cars, plants and houses.

ASIA

Megawati's Presidential Chances Weaken

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri's chances of becoming Indonesia's next president appeared to weaken as a political rival won a key post and her party's main ally pondered withdrawing support.

Her party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), scrambled to find legislators to back her after a vote left the speakership of parliament in the hands of PDI-P's arch rival, the Golkar party led by President B.J. Habibie.

Political analysts said the hugely popular Megawati should not have assumed that her party's victory in June's parliamentary election ensured she would become president.

Golkar Chairman Akbar Tandjung won the speakership in a secret ballot of the 500-member parliament in a landslide, with 411 votes.

Japan May Lift N. Korea Sanctions

TOKYO--Tokyo said it may gradually lift punitive measures it slapped on North Korea last year after the communist state test-fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

Japan's new foreign minister, Yohei Kono, said the lifting of measures could initially include a resumption of chartered flights between Japan and North Korea.

"Cautiously, we would like to consider resuming chartered flights" between Japan and North Korea, he told reporters a day after being appointed to his post in a cabinet reshuffling. "We would like to do this first."

THE MIDDLE EAST

Israel to Release Prisoners Tomorrow

JERUSALEM--Israel will free some Islamic militants tomorrow as part of a group of 151 Palestinian prisoners it has promised to release under a peace deal, senior Israeli officials said.

Israel freed a first batch of 199 prisoners on Sept. 9. Under the criteria used then, members of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad and detainees who had carried out attacks since the signing of the 1993 accord were ineligible.

Officials did not say what criteria Israel would use in choosing which prisoners to free this week.

Man Convicted of Raping Miss World TEL AVIV--An Israeli travel agent was convicted of raping Miss World, Israeli model Linor Abargil, at knife point and trying to choke her with a rope and plastic bag.

The Tel Aviv District Court found Shlomo Nour, 43, guilty of abducting and raping Abargil in his car exactly a year ago in a forest near the northern Italian city of Milan.

The assault occurred seven weeks before Abargil was crowned Miss World over 85 other contestants in the Seychelles last November. News of the rape emerged after the beauty pageant took place.

EUROPE

Russia to Act Against Press 'Aggression'

MOSCOW--The Russian government plans to change its policy toward the news media and stifle "aggression" by the press, the head of the country's recently established media ministry said.

With parliamentary and presidential elections looming, Russian liberals have been worried that the government would curb media freedom. The worries grew this summer after the creation of the ministry to oversee the press.

"The information policy of the state as regards the mass media should be changed," Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said, according to the Russian Tass news agency. "There is much aggression in the activities of the mass media now. This is the result of ill-considered policy toward the mass media."

AFRICA

African Official Calls for Help for Refugees

GENEVA--A senior official of the Organization of African Unity called on the world not to forget the millions of African refugees while it was focusing on crises in Kosovo and East Timor.

OAU Deputy Secretary-General Said Djinnit told a Geneva conference there are 7 million refugees, people who had fled from one country to another, in Africa, and 20 million more people displaced, forced from their homes but remaining in their own country.

The long-serving OAU official, an Algerian, told a news conference later that African countries were ready to solve problems regionally "as far as we can. But we cannot fool ourselves that we have all the resources we need to do that, and outside help is vital," he said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"It's worse than hell. We haven't seen hell yet, but this is really it."

--Bishop Carlos Belo, speaking on his return to the devastated East Timor capital of Dili

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