ISLAMABAD - Heavy rains have caused flooding in large areas of southwestern Afghanistan over the past week, killing at least 30 people in one of the five stricken provinces, U.N. and Afghan sources in Pakistan said.


BEIJING - Leaders plan to shed 4 million government jobs over three years as part of its boldest effort yet to streamline a bloated bureaucracy, state media reported.


HANOI - The government brushed aside claims by a British environmental group that its leaders were colluding with their counterparts in neighboring Cambodia in a massive and illegal logging trade.


Parliament banned political parties from making and distributing movies, placing the political films in the same legal category as obscene movies.


MOSCOW - President Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma signed a landmark economic cooperation deal designed to more than double trade between the two Slav giants over the next 10 years.


ISTANBUL - Islamisc protesters got a surprise from the skies when a helicopter hired by the Turkish post office bombarded them with secularist leaflets.


JAKARTA - Politics overshadowed economic woes as the nation geared for an assembly meeting that will re-elect President Suharto for a seventh consecutive five-year term.


NEW DELHI - Police are investigating whether there was a plot to kill the widow of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a Congress Party spokeswoman said.


TAIPEI - A driver filling his truck with liquid natural gas drove away before disconnecting the fuel hose, causing a blast that killed four people and injured 30, police said.

South Korea

SEOUL - The major opposition party agreed to vote on President Kim Dae-jung's choice for prime minister, Kim Jong-pil, breaking an impasse over the nomination and clearing at least one hurdle toward approving him.


ATHENS - Archbishop Seraphim, the elderly head of the Greek Orthodox Church, was in critical but stable condition suffering from a viral infection complicated by longstanding kidney problems, doctors said.


ESMERALDAS - A spill at an oil pipeline exploded and sent a ball of flame shooting through a residential neighborhood, killing seven people and injuring 40, police said.


MANILA - Malaria has killed 135 people since the start of the year on a southern Philippine island in one of the worst epidemics in the country's recent history, the health department said.


VIENNA - Gertraud Knoll, a 39-year-old Lutheran bishop who promised to bring more warmth to politics, became the second woman to announce she would run in April's presidential election.


TOKYO - Six people were injured when a gang of two or three pickpockets released pepper spray in a crowded Tokyo subway station after fleeing with a stolen wallet, police said.