N. Korea talks on nuclear issue fail

BEIJING - Envoys failed to agree yesterday on how to verify North Korea's past atomic activities in the latest round of talks on the country's nuclear program, all but snuffing hopes of a successful legacy on the issue by the outgoing Bush administration.

"We had some very ambitious plans for this round. Unfortunately, we were not able to complete some of the things we wanted to do," Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator, said. "Ultimately, [North Korea] was not ready to reach a verification protocol with all the standards that are required." He did not elaborate on what differences remained.

Charles K. Armstrong, director of Columbia University's Center of Korean Research, said the North seemed to be "waiting until [Barack] Obama comes into office, and perhaps then they will be more forthcoming."

- AP

Luxembourg cuts monarch's powers

LUXEMBOURG - Lawmakers yesterday trimmed the powers of Luxembourg's Grand Duke Henri, after the devoutly Roman Catholic monarch said he would not sign a euthanasia bill into law. The law makes euthanasia and assisted suicide possible after at least two doctors have been consulted.

The 60-member legislature voted 56-0, with one abstention, to amend the constitution so that, in the future, Henri would no longer have to approve laws adopted by parliament.

The vote cleared the way for Henri to "promulgate" - or formally announce - the euthanasia and assisted-suicide bill after it got its final legislative approval Dec. 18. As in other parliamentary monarchies, royal assent is a formality but required for laws to take effect.

- AP

Extradition nears for ex-Nazi guard

BERLIN - Germany's highest criminal court turned over the case against a former Nazi death-camp guard to Munich prosecutors yesterday, paving the way for his possible extradition from the United States for trial.

Munich prosecutors will now decide whether there is enough evidence of John Demjanjuk's alleged involvement in the deaths of 29,000 Jews at Sobibor to charge him and request he be returned to Germany for trial, spokesman Anton Winkler said. Demjanjuk, a retired autoworker, lives near Cleveland.

The Munich office was still awaiting files from Germany's federal office that pursues Nazi-era crimes, and Winkler said it was not certain when a decision would be made. Demjanjuk, 88, lived in a Munich-area refugee camp after the war, which the Federal Court of Justice ruled was enough to hand jurisdiction of the case to prosecutors there.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Violent storms

flooded parts of Rome yesterday, killing at least one person as the sea threatened to once more inundate Venice. Rescuers in Rome found one woman dead in her car, which was submerged in an underpass.