Cuban lawmakers legalized some private businesses and turned thousands of state farms into cooperatives as part of what President Fidel Castro called a temporary step backward from his socialist ideal.

Faced with a worsening economic crisis, lawmakers also suggested some benefits and subsidies might be reduced, prices raised and taxes imposed for the first time in three decades.The economic reforms ratified by the parliament Tuesday are aimed at combating the communist state's growing deficit and black market inflation.

Castro called the reforms a painful but necessary diversion from the country's ideals.

Cuba "has had to make concessions and take steps backward from the construction of a socialist society," Castro told 400 members of the National Assembly at what was a major policy forum to cap 1993.

He called the reforms temporary but promised the state would not betray foreign investors and Cubans who take advantage of the new laws.

"We have to comply with our obligations and promises and if we say, `Invest here, you have all the guarantees necessary,' they will have them above all," he said. "We never go back on our word."

Portions of the debate were reported by the goverment's Prensa Latina news agency, monitored in Mexico City, and others by state radio and television in Havana.

The National Assembly formalized government decrees issued last fall to legalize almost 140 private occupations and transform the state farms. Castro said 125,000 Cubans have already begun private businesses since they were authorized at midyear.

The reforms are part of a campaign to pull Cuba from the economic morass caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and east European communist governments that were the island's patrons. Cuba's economy also has been hamstrung by the longtime U.S. economic embargo.

In an interview published in today's New York Daily News, Castro called the U.S. embargo an "economic war against Cuba."

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End the embrago?

Jesse Jackson returned from a five-day visit to Cuba Tuesday and called for an end to the embargo of the communist nation. Jackson also said it was only a matter of time before President Fidel Castro's granddaugther will join her mother in the United States.

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