Concern that the global financial turmoil isn't over led Japan's benchmark stock market index to the second-steepest plunge in its 59-year history Thursday. The Nikkei average declined 11.4 percent, leading a broad-based downturn across the Asian-Pacific region. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 7.6 percent. Australia's most widely watched average closed 6.7 percent lower. South Korea's and India's main indexes both slid 4 percent. Meanwhile, in electronic trading, the per-barrel price of crude oil for November delivery was at a 14-month low and at half its peak of last July.

The two largest dairies in China said they'll merge their milk- collection operations for better quality control amid ongoing fallout over the melamine scandal. But despite the pledge, the government said 5,800 children remain hospitalized more than a month after drinking tainted formula. Three lawsuits have been filed against the company at the center of the scandal, but lawyers for the plaintiffs told the Agence France-Presse news agency it isn't clear whether the courts will allow any to come to trial. They also said authorities have warned them against taking such cases.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is prepared to compromise on his slate of cabinet ministers to salvage the power-sharing deal with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a published report suggested Thursday. The issue is threatening to collapse the accord. Citing an unidentified source close to Mugabe, the official Herald newspaper said he "could" make changes. Mugabe reserved all the choicest posts for his ZANU-PF Party, infuriating the MDC.

Commanders of Thailand's and Cambodia's armies met at their disputed border Thursday for talks aimed at lowering tensions after a clash in which both sides took casualties. Reports said neither agreed to a pullback but that an escalation did not appear inevitable. In a battle Wednesday, two Cambodian soldiers were killed and two others were wounded. Five Thais were hurt and 10 were taken prisoner.

A ruling by Thailand's anticorruption commission was expected Thursday on a complaint against new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, with opponents saying he'd have to resign if it went against him. Such an outcome would be the second involving a head of government in two months. Somchai, who took over the Justice Ministry eight years ago, is accused of failing to discipline two of its former officials for corruption in a 1994 auction of publicly owned land. His predecessor was forced to resign last month for accepting money to serve as host of a TV program.

All six challengers hastened to congratulate Azerbaijan's leader, Ilham Aliyev, as early returns from the presidential election Wednesday made it clear that he'd win in a landslide. Aliyev led his closest rival by an 89 percent to 3 percent margin, the Central Election Commission said. The vote was boycotted by five opposition parties on grounds that they'd been barred from campaigning freely. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election showed "considerable progress" but still failed to meet all international democratic standards.

Hurricane Omar appeared likely to spare the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Thursday as it tracked northeast toward the central Atlantic Ocean. With top winds of 125 m.p.h., it caused the cancellation of commercial flights and the rerouting of cruise ships, but the greatest concern for Caribbean residents was heavy rain.

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