Little or no progress is expected as the six parties to talks on North Korea's nuclear program begin their latest get-together in Beijing Monday. Analysts predicted there will be no serious North Korean moves until after US President-elect Obama is inaugurated. The North also said it would ignore Japan's delegation because of a failure to send promised aid due to an ongoing dispute over the kidnapping of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s.

The first face-to-face peace talks between Congo's government and rebels led by renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda are scheduled to open Monday on neutral soil in Kenya. The goal: cementing a fragile cease-fire. But prospects appeared unclear because the government was standing by its insistence that rebel splinter groups also be included, whereas Nkunda's forces want bilateral negotiations only. The talks will be brokered by the UN and the African Union.

Political strife in Thailand took a new turn Sunday as remmnants of its ousted ruling coalition and main opposition party both claimed enough support in parliament to form the next government. The opposition Democrat Party said it had "about 260 votes" and would seek an extraordinary session as soon as possible to choose the new prime minister. Meanwhile, the ex-People's Power Party said it has lined up "more than 222 votes" to form a new coalition. A special session would have to be OK'd by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. But he fell ill late last week and didn't make his annual birthday speech to the nation.

Millions of chanting Muslim pilgrims converged on Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as the annual five-day hajj began. Saudi authorities reported none of the problems that have marred the pilgrimage in recent years, such as fires, stampedes, and confrontations with police. But one Iranian cleric was seen violating a ban on political activities by making an anti-US and anti-Israel speech.

Leaders of Canada's opposition parties warned that they'll try again to topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government "at the first opportunity" after the latter was given the OK to suspend Parliament for seven weeks. At the same time, pressure grew on Liberal leader Stephane Dion to resign immediately since he and two allies failed to force a vote of no-confidence in Harper's rule. Dion would have become prime minister had the vote passed. He pledged to quit after his party lost the Oct. 14 election, but then forged the alliance with the New Democratic Party and the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

By the thousands, members of the Russian Orthodox Church waited in a cold rain Sunday in Moscow to pay last respects to Patriarch Alexiy II, who'd led the movement since before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Analysts said his legacy will be the revival of the world's largest Orthodox movement, the healing of an 80-year rift with a rival faction, and improved relations with the Kremlin.

A warning not to eat products made with Irish pork was issued by the government Saturday after tests found massive levels of dioxin in the systems of pigs and in their feed. All bacon, ham steaks, sausages, pizza toppings, and the like made since Sept. 1 were ordered to be recalled and destroyed. Ireland's pork industry earns more than $600 million a year.

Although Amsterdam's mayor vowed to search for loopholes, the Dutch government unveiled plans to drive organized crime from the city by halving the number of its famous brothels, marijuana cafes, and shops that sell sex-related material. The plan calls for replacing them with boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and underground parking.

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