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Futures prices for crude oil fell below $40 a barrel Tuesday on Asian and European markets and appeared likely to close at that level. Analysts cited concern that global demand for oil is weakening as the reason for the ongoing slide, and at least one predicted that crude would fall as low as $25 a barrel next year before a rebound occurs. Since July, when futures spiked at $147 per barrel, prices have plunged 73 percent. Contracts now are being sold for February delivery.

Iraq's Parliament speaker resigned Tuesday, paving the way for approval of a resolution that will allow non-US forces to remain in-country until next July. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, had feuded with other legislators over unrelated issues, and the resulting impasse threatened to block passage of the status-of-forces measure. Without it, there would be no legal authority for non-American troops to stay beyond Dec. 31, even though most are expected to leave over the next few months anyway.

Army units in Guinea claimed to have seized power Tuesday after the death of longtime President Lansana Conte. But the country's prime minister insisted that his government had not been dissolved. The circumstances of Conte's passing were not immediately clear, but he had a history of serious medical problems.

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Gunfire struck a bus carrying police officers in Athens, and an estimated 3,000 young protesters marched through the capital Tuesday as antigovernment disturbances entered their third week. No one was hurt in the early morning shooting, which appeared to come from a university campus where much of the trouble has originated. But police are barred by law from campus without first obtaining permission.

A highly touted sea-to-air Russian ballistic missile "self-destroyed" in a test launch Tuesday, the fifth time it has failed, Navy spokesmen announced. The Kremlin has hailed the Bulava, which is designed to carry nuclear warheads up to 6,200 miles, as capable of penetrating any other nation's defenses. It is to be carried by a fleet of new submarines that are under construction. More tests of the Bulava are to be conducted next year, the Navy said.

Secret negotiations have been held between Georgia's government and the Kremlin about restoring diplomatic and other relations, a Moscow newspaper reported Tuesday. The two sides have feuded bitterly over such issues as Georgian membership in NATO and, in August, they fought a brief war over the disputed territory of South Ossetia. But sources told the newspaper that there was no hope of a reconciliation as long as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili remains in power.

Former Olympic gold medal skier Nancy Greene Raine and 17 other Canadians were appointed to vacant Senate seats Monday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought to shore up his support in Parliament, where the Conservative Party remains in the minority. The move drew fire from political opponents, since Harper had said senators should be elected to their lifetime offices. The appointments still must be approved by Governor-General Michaelle Jean. Parliament is due back in session Jan. 26, and Harper is scheduled to introduce his 2009 budget the following day.

A return to anarchy and political violence remains a strong possibility in East Timor, a leaked UN report said Tuesday. It calls the fledgling nation's police dysfunctional and the court system chaotic and says political stability depends on the "personal chemistry" of the four top leaders. The report warns that renewed social unrest may be triggered by a "precipitous fall" in revenues from offshore oil and gas reserves, since three in four households struggle to put sufficient food on the table.

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