Widely divergent positions were staked out by North Korea and the US as six-sided negotiations on the former's nuclear weapons program resumed in Beijing. The North's delegates proclaimed it a nuclear power and demanded an end to all sanctions against it – by the UN as well as the US – plus the scrapping of the "hostile policy" of the Bush administration before they would consider disarmament. US representative Christopher Hill, however, said time for the North to dismantle the program was running out and implied that more sanctions could be forthcoming if it doesn't comply.

Amid new exchanges of gunfire between Hamas and Fatah security personnel in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insisted Monday that he should be taken at his word in pressing for a new election. He called for such a vote, which could result in ousting the Hamas-led government, in a speech over the weekend. But Hamas has accused him of an illegal effort to topple its administration, and analysts warned that an early election could backfire, resulting in an even larger Hamas majority and costing Abbas his own job.

Voters dealt President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "a decisive defeat" in last week's local elections, the most important reform party in Iran claimed Monday. But the results announced so far are partial, and critics were warning that the delay in announcing final results – especially in Tehran, the capital – could be an indication of tampering by Iran's ultraconservative government. The government has not yet commented for the record on the partial results.

Car bombs exploded outside two more properties owned by European oil companies in Nigeria's delta region Monday, and the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility. It was not immediately clear whether the latest attacks caused any casualties or further cuts in production. To date, the militants' campaign for control over oil and gas revenues has reduced the flow of crude from the delta by 25 percent. The militants also frequently kidnap employees of the oil companies, although most are soon released unharmed.

The estimated 15 million Muslims who live in Europe confront regular discrimination in housing, employment, and education that tends to alienate them from the mainstream of society, a new report said Monday. But the document, "Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia," also said the subjects "acknowledge they need to do more to engage with wider society [and] take greater responsibility for integration." Discrimination is mainly verbal rather than violent, the chairwoman of the study panel told reporters. She said EU political leaders must promote meaningful "intercultural dialogue" and tackle racism and marginalization more effectively.

A supermarket employee in was arrested Monday on suspicion of murdering five prostitutes in a case that has gripped England unlike any other in decades. The victims were found near the eastern city of Ipswich between Dec. 2 and Dec. 12, and the suspect was quoted in London's Sunday Mirror as saying he'd been questioned by police four times because he admitted knowing each of them. His home is less than 10 miles from the area where their remains were discovered.

Only 24 of an estimated 150 immigrants whose small wooden boat sank en route from Senegal to Spain's Canary Islands have been rescued, security officials said Monday. The fate of the others aboard the fishing craft couldn't be confirmed, but a Red Cross spokesman said at least 80 of them had died. The incident was the second of its type in two weeks involving African immigrants hoping to find employment in Europe. Hundreds of Africans have died in such attempts this year, mostly after failing to navigate rough seas in underpowered boats.

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