Across Asia and Europe, worry that the US economy is deteriorating sent stock indexes plummeting Monday – in some cases by percentages not seen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.Typical was Japan's benchmark Nikkei, which closed down 3.9 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 5.5 percent. India's Sensex lost 7.4 percent, its second-worst drop in history. At midday, the FTSE in Britain was down by 3.9 percent. Oil futures prices, however, fell to a six-week low of $89 a barrel in electronic trading.Above, a passer-by in Hong Kong glances at a display showing the Hang Seng numbers.
In Europe to try to win backing for his governing strategy, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pledged that the Feb. 18 election in his country will be "fair, transparent, and peaceful." But he said Pakistan needs time to "reach what you have reached" in terms of democracy and human rights because "our environment and your environment are very, very different." Musharraf (above, l., at a news briefing in Brussels with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana) also sought to assure European leaders that Pakistan's nuclear weapons arsenal is secure under his rule and beyond the reach of terrorists and other extremists.
A boycott of businesses owned by allies of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was called by opposition leaders, along with a new round of street protests against his disputed reelection. The latter are scheduled to begin Thursday. Kibaki's government blasted the boycott as "illegal and an insult to Kenyans." It also summoned Britain's ambassador for a dressing-down because his government has yet to recognize Kibaki's election victory.
New turmoil erupted in Lebanon Monday as two vehicles owned by relatives of political figures were heavily damaged in a grenade explosion. There were no injuries, however. One vehicle belonged to the wife of a judge, the other to the family of a pro-Syrian general jailed in connection with the 2005 assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The incidents came one day after parliament announced its 12th postponement of the election for a new national president. The vote, which was to have taken place Monday, was rescheduled for Feb. 11.
Human rights activists reacted angrily to the appointment of a war-crimes suspect in Sudan to a senior post in government. The Federal Affairs Ministry said Musa Hilal, a clan leader and the alleged coordinator of janjaweed militias in Darfur Province, will serve President Omar al-Bashir as an advisor. Hilal has denied any wrongdoing, but is under financial sanctions and a UN ban on foreign travel. Human Rights Watch called his appointment "a slap in the face" to victims of the atrocities in Darfur. Bashir disputed the allegations and said Hilal "has contributed to peace and stability."
A unlicensed coal mine that authorities had dynamited shut four years ago exploded in China's Shanxi Province Sunday night amid efforts to reopen it secretly. The official Xinhua news agency said at least 20 people died in the blast. They were trying to take advantage of a heavy snowfall to hide their work, the Xinhua account said. The accident was the first of its magnitude to be reported in China this year. Last year, mining accidents there killed almost 3,800 people.
A scale model of the world's first solar-powered, car- and waste-free city was to be unveiled Monday in Abu Dhabi, site of the World Future Energy Summit. Plans call for the city of 50,000 people to be built using traditional Arabic architecture but the most advanced technologies for electricity, refrigeration, transportation, and other systems. Critics say the No. 1 challenge to building the city will be whether enough engineers, scientists, and other manpower can be lured to the oil-rich emirate, where summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees F.