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Reuters World News Highlights 1800 GMT Oct 29

TOP STORIES

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NEW YORK/REHOBOTH BEACH - Hurricane Sandy began battering the U.S. East Coast on Monday with fierce winds and driving rain, as the monster storm shut down transportation, shuttered businesses and sent thousands scrambling for higher ground hours before the worst was due to strike.

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AMMAN - Syrian jets bombed parts of Damascus on Monday in what residents said were the capital's fiercest air raids yet, underlining the collapse of a truce proposed by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

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WASHINGTON - With one week left in the tight battle for the White House, it's all about the vital swing state of Ohio. Unless it's about Colorado - or Iowa, or tiny New Hampshire.

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MADRID/ROME - Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy kept financial markets guessing on Monday over whether he will seek a credit line from the euro zone's rescue fund but said he would do so ``when I think it is in the interests of Spain''.

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ROME - The divided party of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi suffered a fresh blow on Monday as voters turned against the centre-right in its former stronghold of Sicily, only five months before national parliamentary elections.

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KIEV - Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich's party was on course on Monday to secure a parliamentary majority but international monitors said flaws in the way the election was conducted meant the country had taken a ``step backwards''.

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VILNIUS - Lithuania's president on Monday vetoed a proposed coalition government, saying one of the three parties involved stood accused of serious voter fraud in a weekend election and was therefore unfit to govern.

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PARIS - France's Socialist government on Monday rebuffed calls from business leaders to slash labour charges, to boost competitiveness, and raise VAT, saying that would hit consumers.

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THE HAGUE - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal Party and the Labour Party said they had reached a coalition deal on Monday, paving the way for a pro-austerity, pro-European government to be sworn in as early as next week.

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ATHENS - A prominent Greek journalist who published the names of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with Swiss bank accounts appeared in court on Monday to stand trial on charges of violating data privacy laws.