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NORIEGA SAYS HE WON'T TAKE STAND AT HIS TRIAL

Manuel Noriega said Tuesday he will not take the stand in his own defense at his drug and racketeering trial.

The deposed Panamanian leader told his trial judge that he was mentally and physically fit and understood his right to testify but would not exercise it. With that announcement, the defense was expected to rest later Tuesday following possible one more witness.The prosecution has said it expects to take a week to present rebuttal witnesses.

On the witness stand Monday, a former Panamanian legislator testified that Noriega personally lobbied for a tough anti-drug law finally passed in late 1986. The legislation made drug prosecutions easier, and for the first time outlawed money laundering.

If convicted on 10 drug and racketeering counts, Noriega could get up to 140 years in prison.

Former legislator Jerry Wilson testified Monday that the tough drug law was opposed by many, including Panama's current foreign minister, whose government replaced Noriega's after the 1989 U.S. invasion.

Also Monday, Drug Enforcement Administration agent Douglas Driver grudgingly read letters praising cooperation by Noriega's police.

Driver, who worked in Panama from 1985 to 1987, acknowledged he wrote a letter calling Panama's efforts "one of the finest examples of international cooperation that can be found anywhere."

Under questioning by prosecutors, Driver said his letter was solicited by Noriega's top anti-drug official for propaganda purposes and wound up on a book cover touting Panama's cooperation in the war on drugs.