The leaders of South Korea and China agreed Monday to expand cooperation in political, economic, and other fields – including North Korea's nuclear disarmament – as the two Asian neighbors push for a new strategic partnership. China is South Korea's largest trading partner, with two-way trade volume reaching $145 billion last year. Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said they want to boost that figure to $200 billion by 2010.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pulled his party out of the ruling coalition Monday, deepening a political crisis that has diverted government attention from pressing security and economic problems.

Eight climbers in the French Alps were missing and presumed dead Sunday after an avalanche swept down Mont Blanc, Western Europe's highest peak. Five Austrians and three Swiss were likely buried Sunday after a massive block of ice broke off a mountain face, triggering the region's worst avalanche in more than a decade.

The US Embassy in Beijing expressed disappointment that China hadn't used the Olympics to demonstrate "greater tolerance and openness" during 17 days of Olympic competition, which ended Sunday. No rallies were held during the Games in the three parks designated as protest zones, this after Chinese officials declined to issue permits to 77 applicants.

Technical problems likely caused a jet crash in Kyrgyzstan that killed 65 of 90 people on board, officials said Monday of the flight that was in the process of returning to the country's main airport in Bishkek when it went down in a field seven miles away . The crew reported a malfunction five minutes into the flight. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, a pilot of a small plane carrying humanitarian workers called in engine trouble before crashing, killing 10 people, including five Americans.

Philippine troops captured 15 Muslim guerrilla strongholds in the south after five days of intense fighting, while more than 272 villagers have fled their homes, officials said Monday. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said her troops were not at war with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and that they were only targeting three hard-line commanders and their men, who could create trouble if a peace pact is signed. Philippine officials have asked the rebels to surrender the commanders.

Thai prosecutors, eyeing the $2.2 billion wealth of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, demanded Mon-day that the Supreme Court seize the assets. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, was accused of widespread corruption. He fled to Britain earlier this month.

Two Zimbabwe opposition politicians were arrested Monday as they entered parliament to be sworn in, their party said. Police said the men were sought for their alleged involvement in election violence. The arrests and a government announcement that President Robert Mugabe had appointed loyalists to several posts were likely to fuel opposition accusations that Mugabe is undermining stalled power-sharing negotiations.

Afghanistan counternarcotic police have confiscated 1.3 tons of opium and detained three smugglers during a raid in Helmand Province, officials said Monday. Opium proceeds are a main source of funding for the Taliban-led insurgency and also a source of government corruption.

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