The Nikkei, Japan's main stock index, led a broad decline on Asian markets Monday that analysts attributed to concern over a potential recession in the US. The Nikkei fell another 191 points to its lowest close since mid-July 2006. That followed a 4 percent drop last Friday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.24 percent and South Korea's Composite Stock index dropped 1.8 percent. Shares on the main Philippine exchange closed at their lowest in four months.

Despite North Korea's failure to meet the Dec. 31 deadline for a full account of its nuclear activities, US envoy Christopher Hill said the communist regime will be shown "a little sense of patience." A "complete and correct declaration" is needed before further talks on the North's international standing can be held, Hill said, but "being late is probably preferable [to] giving us something that we can't work with."

At least 17 more Iraqis died Monday in a new wave of suicide-type bombings in Baghdad since the release of an Al Qaeda audiotape urging retaliation against Sunnis now siding with the US. Terrorism, however, was ruled out as the cause of a massive explosion and fire at the nation's largest oil refinery, killing one employee and injuring 36 others.

Rival political parties in Kosovo agreed Monday on a coalition government that ultimately will "formalize" the breakaway province "as an independent, democratic state." The plan is expected to be voted on by parliament Wednesday. Kosovo's Albanian leadership is being urged not to declare independence until after Jan. 20, when Serbia holds its presidential election, so as not to boost the ultranationalist vote there.

Ignoring calls for his resignation, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya summoned parliament to meet next week for the first time since his controversial reelection victory. Meanwhile, opposition leader Raila Odinga met with US envoy Jendayi Frazer and said he was calling off further protests against the election outcome to allow for mediation efforts and to avoid provoking further violence. Almost 500 people have died in postelection demonstrations.

Showing footage of a disfigured civil war victim, prosecutors finally began making their case against ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor in The Hague. His trial before the UN special tribunal for Sierra Leone had to be adjourned six months ago after he boycotted the opening session and fired his lawyer. Taylor (above, r.) is charged with 11 counts of murder, rape, enslavement, and recruiting child soldiers to fight in the 1991-2002 war that spilled across the Liberia-Sierra Leone border.

Embattled President Abdullahi Yusuf of Somalia was flown to London for medical tests Sunday, the second such trip in less than a month. Yusuf collapsed last week while at his duties, although aides insist he's able to handle the stress of Somali politics. Opposition leaders contend he is critically ill.

Soldiers from Italy's Army bulldozed tons of trash from around public schools in Naples Monday so they could reopen for the first time since Christmas. Mob-controlled removal services stopped collecting two weeks ago, all local landfills are full, and a new incinerator that was to go online by year's end is still unfinished, leaving residents no choice but to dump household waste in the streets (above). Prime Minister Romano Prodi was expected to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on the issue.

Between them, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and former company executive Charles Simonyi have donated $30 million to help build the world's first telescope capable of surveying the entire sky every 72 hours, reports said. The project, estimated to cost almost $400 million when finished, is to be based in Chile and be operational in seven years.

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