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World

December 16, 2008



The price of crude oil for January delivery appeared likely to close at about $49 a barrel Monday as traders anticipated one of the deepest cuts in production in OPEC history. At its scheduled meeting Wednesday in Algeria, the cartel is expected to lower output by at least 2 million barrels a day to try to put upward pressure on prices, which have plunged by 65 percent since spiking in July. Some analysts, however, questioned whether member countries have the discipline to abide by a new, lower quota.

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In a reversal of Thailand's recent political protests, supporters of the ousted government went on the offensive Monday, smashing car windows and shoving police as Parliament voted to hand the prime ministership to opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. But analysts predicted that Abhisit will have little room to maneuver because of his narrow majority in the legislature, which is considered likely to thin even further next month when voters go to the polls to fill 29 vacant seats.

Amid colorful ceremonies, cargo ships from Taiwan and mainland China sailed for each other's ports Monday as the rivals formally ended an almost 60-year ban on direct transportation links. The resumption also included commercial airline and postal service. The resumption means flights no longer must detour through Hong Kong's airspace and shipping won't have to stop first at Okinawa.

Almost 230 Palestinian prisoners returned to their families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Monday after being released by Israel. The move came after the Supreme Court dismissed two appeals to block the release on grounds that the freed men would "resume terrorist activities." A "goodwill gesture" to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the release was the second of its type in four months but still leaves more than 11,000 Palestinians in prison.

Members of Somalia's Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reinstate Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein Monday after he was fired by the transitional president. Some legislators said President Abdullahi Yusuf should go, not Hussein. The two have feuded for months, mainly over the direction that peace talks with Islamist militants should take. A spokesman for Yusuf called Monday's vote unconstitutional.

Ending efforts to lure rebel chief Joseph Kony to signing ceremonies for their peace treaty, Uganda's government troops returned to the attack and were joined by forces from neighboring Congo and Sudan. But a spokesman said Uganda would reopen negotiations "if there is an opportunity." Representatives of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, however, called the new offensive "regrettable" and threatened to retaliate. Kony failed to appear at the signing ceremony in June and again last month.

Saying the post should go to someone who'd "give hope to the younger generation," Prime Minister-designate Theodor Stolojan of Romania announced Monday that he didn't wish to be confirmed by Parliament. President Traian Basescu will replace him with Democratic Liberal Party chief Emil Boc, reports said. Stolojan, who has a history of health problems, was prime minister in the early 1990s and twice ran for president.

Search crews were trying to find 31 people listed as missing after the ferry in which they were riding capsized Sunday night in the northern Philippines. Coast Guard officials said "about 50" passengers survived; 23 others died. Such accidents are common in the region, often due to poorly maintained vessels and lax enforcement of safety rules. In June, hundreds of people died when a ferry sank off Sibuyan Island. At least 40 more drowned last month aboard another ferry that capsized.

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