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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / May 29, 2008



Futures prices for crude oil appeared headed for another close below $130 a barrel Wednesday, extending a new decline after weeks of steep increases. After dipping as low as $125.96, prices for July delivery rebounded to $129.50 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, bench-mark Brent crude was trading at $128.83 after setting a record of $135.14 last week. Quoting a source in the OPEC cartel, Britain's Sky News said its members are "uncomfortable" with the pricing trend and believe it should be in the $60-$70-a-barrel range.

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Following through on its recent warning, Indonesia's government said Wednesday it will quit OPEC. Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said rising consumption and declining production make it difficult to meet the nation's own needs. The government recently cut fuel subsidies, causing a 30 percent hike in the price of gasoline and subsequent angry public protests.

In a historic closing of the ranks, Chinese President Hu Jintao and the chairman of Taiwan's new ruling party met Wednesday in Beijing as TV cameras provided live coverage. Hu thanked Wu Poh-hsiung for sending help to victims of the May 12 earthquake and pledged to make direct charter flights between mainland and Taiwanese cities a priority. The talks were in sharp contrast to years of Chinese efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and threaten it with attack over any attempt to declare independence.

Elderly residents of Beijing and people with respiratory problems were advised to stay indoors Wednesday as smog and dust choked the city 10 weeks before the Olympic Summer Games. Air quality was rated "hazardous," and visibility was so poor that some buildings couldn't be seen despite $17 billion worth of investment on measures to improve conditions for the sports festival. China launched another weather satellite into orbit Tuesday to improve forecasting for the Aug. 8-24 Games.

Thousands of people filled the streets of Nepal's capital Wednesday as the newly elected Constituent Assembly prepared to declare the Himalayan nation a republic, ending a monarchy that has lasted 239 years. Led by former communist rebels, the assembly was expected to give unpopular King Gyanendra and his family 15 days to leave their palace or be removed forcefully.

Seven more federal police were killed and four were wounded in Mexico's Sinaloa State Tuesday in the latest confrontation with drug traffickers. The police drew gunfire, and a grenade was thrown at them from inside a house in the capital, Culiacan, that they'd approached to search for a suspected cache of weapons. More than 200 people have been killed in Sinaloa this year, some of them in a power struggle between gangs of traffickers.

Soldiers in Guinea will receive eight years' worth of back pay – about $1,100 per man – the government pledged in a bid to end the mutiny that began Monday. But although streets in the capital, Conakry, finally were quiet Wednesday, the mutineers still hadn't freed the Army's second-in-command, who was seized for leverage in a demand for salary increases. A spokesman said the soldiers did not trust the government to honor the pledge.

Over the next four years, Germany will spend €500 million ($788 million) on the protection of forests around the world – and the same amount every year after that, Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged at the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Bonn Wednesday. Environ-mental activists hailed the pledge but said "other countries have to follow" or the goal of safeguarding "the loss of species" by 2010 won't be met.

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