Key events in the year just ending:
- 1: In Pakistan a suicide bomber blows up a car packed with explosives in the middle of a crowd gathered for a volleyball game in a northwest village, killing at least 101 people. It is the first of many sectarian attacks during the year.
- 4: The Gulf emirate of Dubai throws a lavish party to inaugurate the world's highest tower, at 828 metres (2,717 feet) tall.
- 12: A massive earthquake shatters the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation of Haiti, destroying large parts of several cities including the capital Port au Prince. The eventual death toll is estimated at over 250,000.
- 17: Chile's presidential election is won by the conservative billionaire Sebastian Pinera.
- 25: An Ethiopian passenger plane carrying 90 people plunges into the Mediterranean Sea minutes after taking off from Beirut airport. There are no survivors.
- 26: The three-dimensional science fiction film Avatar becomes the highest-earning move in history, just 39 days after its release.
- 5: NATO special forces storm a Slovenian cargo ship captured by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, freeing the crew of 25.
- 5: British prosecutors announce criminal charges against four lawmakers over alleged abuse of parliamentary expenses.
- 18: US President Barack Obama incurs the wrath of China by meeting with the exiled Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama.
- 19: The government of the west African state of Niger is overthrown in a coup.
- 23: The jailed Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata dies in hospital, 85 days after going on hunger strike to protest prison conditions.
- 25: Pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych is sworn in as the new president of Ukraine after winning elections against pro-western Viktor Yuschenko.
- 27: A massive earthquake kills over 700 people in and around the Chilean city of Concepcion and sparks tsunami alerts around the Pacific Ocean.
- 1: Some 300 people die as a mudslide engulfs several villages in eastern Uganda.
- 7: "The Hurt Locker", an Iraq war drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is the big winner at the annual Oscars in Hollywood.
- 8: Over 500 Christians are massacred near Jos in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria.
- 22: US President Barack Obama signs into law a healthcare reform package aimed at ensuring that some 32 million more Americans gain insurance, in the biggest victory of his presidency.
- 26: South Korea says one of its naval corvettes has sunk with the loss of all 46 hands near the border with North Korea. After an investigation, South Korea accuses Northern forces of torpedoeing the vessel.
- 29: Two women blow themselves up in the Moscow subway, killing 39 people. The attack is later claimed by an Islamist group from the Russian Caucasus region. Attacks two days later kill 12 people in the North Caucasus region.
- 8: The government of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan is overthrown in an uprising that leads to several weeks of bloodshed.
- 10: A plane carrying the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and other top figures crashes in Russia, killing all 96 people aboard.
- 12: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Obama sign a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty, START, during a visit to Prague, opening a new chapter in bilateral relations.
- 13: At least 245 people die in a series of floods and landslides in and around the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
- 14: An erupting volcano in Iceland starts spewing ash into the atmosphere over the North Atlantic, shutting down many airports in Europe and disrupting world travel for three weeks.
- 14: A powerful earthquake hits a remote part of northwestern China, killing over 2,000 people.
- 20: An explosion kills 11 workers on a deep-water oil drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, starting a long-running spill which turns into the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States.
- 2: Eurozone finance ministers approve a 110-billion-euro loan package for Greece over three years, with 80 billion euros coming from the bloc and the rest from the IMF.
On the 10th the European Union and the International Monetary Fund agree on a trillion-dollar "shock and awe" market stabilisation fund which includes help for Greece.
- 6: David Cameron's Conservative Party comes out ahead in a British general election, but fails to get an absolute majority. After several days of uncertainty, Cameron reaches an agreement with the head of the third-placed Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, and they form a coalition.
- 6: Nigerian president Umaru Yar'Adua dies and is replaced by his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan.
- 10: A string of bombings and shootings kill at least 110 people across Iraq.
- 10: The United States announces the re-starting of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but the announcement is almost immediately undermined by the news that Israel intends to build more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.
- 22: All but eight of the 166 people aboard an Air India passenger plane are killed when it overshoots the runway and crashes in the city of Mangalore, in the deadliest plane crash of the year.
- 31: Israeli forces storm a flotilla of mainly Turkish ships seeking to take aid to the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip, subject to an Israeli blockade since 2006. The troops kill nine pro-Palestinian activists on the vessel.
- June 2: A taxi driver in the northwestern English town of Whitehaven shoots dead a total of 12 people and injures 11 others while driving around the region. He then kills himself.
- 3: A fire kills at least 120 in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.
- 8: Naoto Kan is sworn in as the new prime minister of Japan. His predecessor Yukio Hatoyama had stepped down over a row about a US base on the island of Okinawa.
- 9: Benigno Aquino is sworn in as the new president of the Philippines after winning a landslide election victory.
- 23: US President Barack Obama fires his commander in the Afghan war and appoints General David Petraeus to take his place. General Stanley McChrystal had made indiscreet remarks about the US war effort in a magazine interview.
- 29: Taiwan and China sign an unprecedented trade pact.
- 8: French doctors say they have succeeded with the world's first full-face transplant, on a disfigured man.
- 9: At least 271 people are burned to death when a fuel truck overturns and then catches fire in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- 9: The US and Russia exchange 10 Russian spies arrested in the United States for four US agents held in Moscow.
- 11: At least 74 people die when bombs explode among crowds of people watching the football World Cup final in the Ugandan capital Kampala. The attacks are later claimed by militants from lawless Somalia.
- 12: Switzerland says it has decided not to extradite the French-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski to the United States, where he is wanted over a sexual assault case dating from 1977.
- 29: Month-long, torrential monsoon rains trigger massive floods in Pakistan, engulfing a fifth of the volatile country, killing at least 1,760 and leaving 21 million homeless.
- 29: Russia is hit by an unprecedented heatwave and drought. Fires kill around 50 people, devastate more than a million hectares of land, burn whole villages and threaten nuclear and military facilities.
- 7: More than 1,700 people are killed and left missing by massive mudslides in Zhouqu, a remote mountain region in Gansu province in northwestern China.
- 31: Seven years after the invasion of Iraq, American troops officially end their combat mission.
- 5: Basque separatist group ETA declares a ceasefire in its bloody 42-year campaign for a homeland independent of Spain, vowing to give up guns and bombs to seek a democratic solution, a move rejected by the Spanish government as inadequate.
- 9: At least 15 people are killed and dozens wounded in an apparent suicide car bombing outside a crowded central market in the Russian Caucasus city of Vladikavkaz, in the latest deadly strike in the troubled region.
- 12: Turks approve divisive constitutional changes to reshape the judiciary and curb the military's powers, handing the Islamist-rooted government a major political victory.
- 16: France's expulsion of Roma gypsies stirs controversy.
- 24: Japan frees a Chinese fishing boat captain whose arrest in disputed waters more than two weeks earlier sparked the worst row in years between the Asian giants.
- 29: The youngest son of ailing leader Kim Jong-Il secures powerful posts in North Korea's ruling party, confirming his status as heir apparent.
- 29: Western intelligence agencies uncover an Al-Qaeda plot to launch attacks in Britain, France and Germany by extremists based in Pakistan.
- 8: Jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo wins the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, to the ire of Beijing.
- 13: 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped underground for 69 days are finally rescued, with the historic rescue beamed by television around the world.
- 15: The world's longest tunnel is drilled under the Swiss Alps.
- 27: The French parliament adopts President Nicolas Sarkozy's law on pension reform despite weeks of nationwide protests and strikes by millions of workers.
- 31: Dilma Rousseff is elected Brazil's first female president, to replace her mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
- 31: Al-Qaeda gunmen attack a Baghdad church killing 44 worshippers and two priests, wounding 60 others, in one of the most deadly attacks on Christians in Iraq.
- 2: Resurgent Republicans smash the Democratic power monopoly in the Congress, gaining a majority in the House of Representatives, in a debilitating blow to President Obama.
- 10: Iraq's deeply divided political factions reach a power-sharing deal more than eight months after inconclusive general elections.
- 13: Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is freed after seven years under house arrest.
- 19: Pope Benedict XVI invites some 150 cardinals from around the world to the Vatican for unprecedented talks on paedophile priests.
- 20: Pope Benedict XVI says that condom use is acceptable "in certain cases", notably to reduce the risk of HIV infection apparently softening his once hardline stance.
- 20: NATO leaders endorse a plan to start handing Afghan forces command of the war next year with the aim of ceding full control by 2014, in what, with more than 680 deaths, is the deadliest year for overseas troops since the US-led operation to oust the Taliban began in late 2001.
- 22: Some 351 revellers perish in a huge stampede on an overcrowded bridge in Cambodia, turning a water festival into tragedy.
- 23: For the first time since the 1950-1953 Korean War, North Korea fires artillery shells into South Korea, killing four and injuring around 20 on a border island and prompting an exchange of fire with southern troops.
- 28: Eurozone finance ministers reach agreement on a 85-billion-euro rescue package for financial crisis-stricken Ireland.
- 28: Gripped by cholera which has killed more than 2,120, Haitians vote in national elections marred by allegations of fraud, searching for a new leader to rebuild a country shattered by the earthquake.
- 28: WikiLeaks releases 250,000 diplomatic cables, detailing the candid conversations between Washington and embassies around the world. On December 7 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is arrested on suspicion of rape.
- 28: Former Ivory Coast prime minister Alassane Ouattara is declared winner of presidential elections and receives international backing, but incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refuses to cede power.
- 6: New talks between Tehran and world powers on Iran's disputed nuclear programme open in Geneva, after a tense 14-month breaKk.