Monday, May 31, 2010

'ICC should look at USA for future events' - Lockerbie

Don Lockerbie, the chief executive of the USA Cricket Association, has said the key to popularising the sport in the United States lies in more international cricket being played there. Speaking to Harsha Bhogle on Cricinfo's audio show Time Out, Lockerbie said he aimed to replicate for cricket the wave of popularity the FIFA World Cup in 1994 generated for football in the United States, and believed that, like football, cricket too would have a professional league in the country in due time. While acknowledging that Twenty20 cricket was the main vehicle to draw more people to the game, he added there was potential for the longer versions to attract a fan base as well.

"In 1994, the soccer World Cup took place, and it generated great interest in the sport and it was followed by the Major League Soccer which started in 1996, two years later," Lockerbie said. "We are looking to do that too. We would love for the ICC to look at the United States in the future for some ICC events.

"We are well under way in a planning situation wherein we are working towards professionalisation of cricket in the US," he said. "We are working towards equalising what some of the other Associate nations like Ireland, Scotland, Holland and Canada have been able to do recently; beginning to put some of their players on professional retainers, and some of these players are now travelling and playing all over the world and getting IPL opportunities. We need to do that in the United States, and along with that will come a professional league."

USA recently hosted a Twenty20 series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand, and Lockerbie said that was the first step towards getting more fans to the game. "We are looking to bring in the best teams in the world," he said. "Even 14 years after the Major League Soccer started in the United States they are averaging 14,000, 17,000, 18,000 people to a match, which isn't too bad. But when Barcelona comes to play Manchester United in Philadelphia they have 90,000. Why is that? When Mexico plays the United States, they can get 100,000 at the Rose Bowl. So the point is that the soccer has a good history now of being positive. By bringing in 'Destination USA,' events, and what we think was a successful Sri Lanka-New Zealand series, we start that way."

The potential for investing in cricket in the US remained huge, Lockerbie said, given the country's infrastructure and record for hosting sporting events with success. "Well, our little game is the second most popular sport in the world, as I view it, behind football. With the great interest from the rest of the world, in the United States, people want to do business in United States. We believe that we are on our way to corporate sponsorship, investment in US cricket, development of facilities.

"The mayor of Indianapolis is very serious about building a cricket stadium; Indianapolis is often called the sports capital of the United States. The Indianapolis 500 just took place the other day, with 500,000 fans at the event, the world largest one-day sporting event. We know how to put on events, and their attitude is - cricket is the second most popular sport in the world and why wouldn't there be a stadium in Indianapolis.

"The city of New York has said to us that one day they would like to have a cricket venue, and they could see themselves as the capital of cricket in the United States. We could become the capital of cricket in the western hemisphere. This is a very big step, and I am hoping to work with my board of directors, our investors, and sponsors, to make that happen in the next three or five years."

In addition to making the United States, with its large untapped fan base, a prime destination for international cricket, Lockerbie stated two other main goals: ensuring the US national team qualifies for the 2015 World Cup and developing a youth programme by taking cricket to the schools.

While conceding Twenty20 cricket was the spark to draw more support for the game in the US, Lockerbie said that Tests and ODIs too, if played by the right teams, stood the potential to take off. "That's [T20] is the perfect storm for us. We are better organised, and there is growing interest. Even in the last five-six years, the amount of immigrants moving to the United States, who are cricket crazy, has just doubled and tripled. So we are ready to go with that perfect storm, the Twenty20 game.

"In the right city, with the right demographics, with the right two teams playing, I don't see why four-five day cricket is any different than Phil Mickelson teeing off on Thursday and winning a golf tournament on Sunday. You've had 60,000 people walking that golf course. Now if India plays almost anybody in a Test match, say in New York, we will have 40,000-50,000 people there."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

2nd ODI: Statistical highlights of India vs Sri Lanka

Following are the statistical highlights of the ODI between India and Sri Lanka in the tri-nation cricket series on Sunday.

# Angelo Matthews (75) has recorded a career-best innings -- his fourth fifty.

# Matthews has posted one fifty each Zimbabwe, New Zealand, India and England.

# Tillakaratne Dilshan (61 off 84 balls) has registered his 17th fifty in ODIs -- his eighth against India.

# Ashok Dinda (2/44) has registered his best bowling figures. He had failed to bag a wicket on his ODI debut against Zimbabwe on May 28, 2010.

# Ravindra Jadeja (2/49) has recorded his best bowling performance away from home.

# India's splendid win by seven wickets is their 65th in 122 matches against Sri Lanka -- success percentage 58.55.

# India have set a record for playing most ODIs (742), bettering Australia's tally of 741.

# With an unbeaten match-winning hundred, Rohit Sharma has registered his second in successive innings. In his previous outing against Zimbabwe, he had recorded a career-best 114 on May 28, 2010.

# Rohit became the first Indian batsman to register two centuries at Bulawayo's Queens Sports Club.

# Rohit has now become the first Indian to post two hundreds in consecutive innings in the same competition in Zimbabwe.

# Rohit and Sachin Tendulkar now share an Indian record for posting two hundreds in Zimbabwe.

# Rohit has received the Man of the Match for the first time in ODIs.

# Virat Kohli (82) has recorded his fourth half-century against Sri Lanka -- his seventh in ODIs.

# Thissara Perera's 32 is his second best innings in ODIs -- his highest being 36 not out against India at Dhaka on January 5, 2010.

# Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma put on 154 for the third wicket -- India's best in Zimbabwe, bettering the 101 between Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif against New Zealand at Harare on September 2, 2005.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Maoists target train in WB; 73 killed

Jhargram: Seventy one passengers of a Maharashtra-bound express train were killed early Friday and over 150 injured in a Maoist attack which led to derailment of 13 coaches that were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction.

The bodies of the passengers were removed from the mangled remains of the ill-fated coaches of the Howrah-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express and the injured taken out with the help of gas cutters, a South Eastern Railway spokesman said.

The incident occurred at 1:30 am when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 km from here, South Eastern Railway officials said.

In Kolkata, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Surojit Karpurokayastha said that according to preliminary investigation, fish plates were found removed at the derailment site.

Earlier, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said the derailment followed a blast apparently triggered by Maoists who are observing a 'black week'.

"We suspect Maoist hand behind the blast," Member (Traffic) Railway Board Vivek Sahai said.

He said the driver of the train heard a loud explosion after which the train derailed. Railways are investigating if the tracks were tampered with, he said.

Five of the 13 derailed coaches fell on an adjacent track and were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction, Additional Superintendent of Police, Jhargram, Mukesh Kumar said.

Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service at the accident spot to airlift some of the injured to the hospitals.

Banerjee, who reached the accident spot, said a patrol engine had passed through the area half an hour earlier, but the timing of the blast proved disastrous with a portion of the line being blown away.

She announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead and Rs 1 lakh for the injured.

This is the second Maoist attack on civilians this month. Naxals had blown up a civilian bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on May 17, killing at least 36 people, including 12 Special Police Officers.

The West Bengal Home Secretary said that the over 200 injured have been shifted to different hospitals and the condition of some of them is critical.

"Some of the critically injured people have been brought to Kolkata for surgical treatment," he said, adding that 30 of the bodies have been sent to various hospitals for post-mortem.
PM, President pay condolence

President Pratibha Patil, who is in China, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incident. The Prime Minister announced Rs two lakh to the next of the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

South Eastern Railway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar said the train had 24 coaches. After the explosion, 13 including 10 sleeper coaches, derailed of which five were hit by the goods train coming on the opposite track. The derailment took place at a spot, 150 kms from Kolkata. An unreserved coach, the pantry car and luggage van also derailed, he said.

Relief officials used gas cutters to extricate trapped passengers and bodies from the mangled remains of the affected coaches. Passengers belongings lay strewn scattered on the tracks.

Angry passengers said the first signs of relief came only around 5 am, three-and-a-half hours after the incident.

Nine of the coaches which were not damaged in the blast took the injured and the other passengers to Kharagpur where they were admitted to hospital.

Anti-Maoist forces were at the spot and assisting the police and rescue personnel in extricating the bodies from four badly damaged sleeper coaches S-5, S-6, S-7 and S-8.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta to immediately rush to Sardiha, the site of the accident.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ban vs Eng Ist Test Live Cricket Score, Streaming

Bangladesh have won the toss and elected to field against England in the first Test match of the Npower Test Series 2010 at Lord’s, London.

Ajmal Shahzad wil not be playing today. Eoin Morgan will make his Test debut.

England Twenty20 skipper Paul Collingwood has been rested for the Test series against Bangladesh. Stuart Broad has also been left out of first Test.

Match will be telecast live on Star Cricket in India. Cricket live score, Live Scorecard will be available on

England (Playing XI): Andrew Strauss(c), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior(w), Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn.

Bangladesh (Playing XI): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Jahurul Islam, Mohammad Ashraful, Shakib Al Hasan(c), Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim(w), Robiul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Shahadat Hossain.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ethiopian Elections

Secretary Clinton was in Seoul today/Met with President Lee and Foreign Minister Yu

Secretary Clinton will speak at the Brookings Institution Thursday on the National Security Strategy.

U.S. is grateful to the Government of Yemen for its efforts to secure the release of two Americans kidnapped Monday.

National Election Board results in Ethiopia indicate a victory for the ruling party/Freedom of choice for voters was constrained by Ethiopian government officials, the National Elections Board of Ethiopia, and the ruling party and its cadres.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg is in Copenhagen to attend the meeting of the Arctic Council/Will meet with Foreign Minister Espersen and Defense Minister Bech.

Deputy Secretary Jack Lew is in Nigeria/Met with the Emir of Kano.

Under Secretary Otero is in Abuja to leading the U.S. delegation to launch the Good Governance, Transparency and Integrity Working Group of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission.

USAID Administrator Shah spoke at the Food Security Investment Forum in Bangladesh and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Assistant Secretary Brimmer will lead the U.S. delegation to the UN Alliance on Civilizations Forum, May 28-29 in Rio de Janeiro.


Not surprised by the election results/Ethiopia did not allow U.S. observers/Reduced choices for people of Ethiopia/U.S. values cooperation with Government of Ethiopia/Will make clear steps it will need to take to improve democratic institutions.


Secretary Clinton will meet with the Foreign Minister on Friday/End of conflict with Tamil Tigers and recent electoral results provides the Government of Sri Lanka a historic opportunity to move the country forward Cancellation of Travel Warning.


Reports of General Dayton's departure/Visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to Washington/Discussing a similar trip to Washington with President Abbas


Offers of assistance from 17 countries/Other offers received from international organizations/BP has accepted offers from Mexico and Norway/U.S. is grateful for all offers of assistance.


U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue preview briefing on Tuesday by Assistant Secretary Blake.
U.S.-India relations have never been stronger.


Trust deficit is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan/Encourage both countries to enhance dialogue and cooperation/Counterterrorism is an ingredient of dialogue and relationship with both countries.


U.S. supports efforts of the Government of Jamaica to strengthen the rule of law and arrest Christopher Coke.


U.S. beginning to focus greater attention on Kandahar/Bring security and effective governance to all of Afghanistan/Looking forward to the having the peace jirga take place.

Ongoing cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan can have effective action against insurgents.

Justine Henin beats Tsvetana Pironkova at French Open

Justine Henin beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-3 to reach the second round in her first appearance at the French Open since winning her fourth title in 2007.

The 27-year-old Belgian, who ended her 20-month retirement in January, edged the first set and looked in cruise-control in the next at 2-0 up.

Bulgarian Pironkova, ranked 81 in the world, won three successive games and had break points for a 4-2 lead.

But Henin, currently ranked 22, roared back to comfortably wrap up victory.

Despite a minor wobble midway through the second set, it was a pretty impressive return to Roland Garros for Henin, who opted to retire rather than defend the crown she won three years ago.

She will play either Klara Zakopalova or Katarina Srebotnik in the second round, with Maria Sharapova a potential third-round opponent.

In other women's matches, 18th seed Shahar Peer from Israel beat Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives 6-1 6-4 and will next face Russian 21st seed Vera Zvonareva who overcame Italian Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-1.

Russia's Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 29, secured her spot in the second round with a 6-4 6-2 win over home favourite Alize Cornet, while Slovakian 23rd seed Daniela Hantuchova defeated Thailand's 33-year-old Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-1 6-1.

Investigators Find Black Box From India Plane Crash

Investigators found the digital flight-data recorder from the wreckage of an Air India plane that crashed in south India as authorities continue to probe the nation’s deadliest air disaster in 14 years.

The “black box” of the Boeing Co. 737-800 that crashed May 22 in the city of Mangalore was retrieved today, according to a statement from the government’s Press Information Bureau. The device is “apparently impacted by the crash” and will be tested for decoding, it said.

The Air India Express aircraft from Dubai overshot Mangalore airport’s runway and burst into flames, killing 158 passengers and crew. Eight people survived the crash, the first involving a passenger plane in India in a decade.

The Air India crash was the sixth fatal accident in 2010, according to Paul Hayes, director of safety at London-based aerospace data company Ascend Worldwide. A total of 371 people have died in airline accidents this year.

A team of investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will arrive in Mangalore today to assist the probe, India’s Director General of Civil Aviation S.N.A. Zaidi said in a phone interview. “It is very difficult” to predict how long the investigation will take, he said.

The fire-damaged cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the hillside crash site on May 23. Analyzing the device may take as long as two weeks, the government said.

New Airlines

The crash was the worst in India since a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight collided with a Kazakhstan Airlines jet in November 1996, killing all 349 on board. In July 2000, a Boeing 737-200 crashed into a residential area while approaching Patna airport in eastern Bihar state.

Since then, new airlines such as Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., SpiceJet Ltd., IndiGo, GoAirlines (India) Pvt. and Paramount Airways Ltd. have taken to India’s skies as demand surged in the world’s fastest-growing major economy after China.

Domestic air traffic in India jumped to more than 35 million passengers in the year ended in March 2009 from fewer than 15 million six years ago, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, an industry consultant. Seven carriers operate 11 different brands in India, compared with four airlines in 2003, it said.

Other airlines that have had fatal accidents this year include Ethiopian Airlines, whose Boeing 737 crashed off the Lebanese coast Jan. 25, killing 82 passengers and Afriqiyah Airways, whose Airbus A330 went down in Tripoli May 12, causing 92 deaths.

--With assistance from Andrea Rothman in Toulouse, France. Editors: Chris Staiti, David Risser

To contact the reporter on this story: Vipin Nair in Mumbai at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at

Obama Will Urge Congress to Act on Small Business Lending Plans

President Barack Obama will today urge Congress to act on proposals he’s put forward to help small businesses secure financing and reduce taxes for investments that create jobs.

Obama will host small-business owners at the White House today and give remarks on the important role those kinds of companies play in reducing unemployment.

“Government can’t create jobs, but it can help create the conditions for small businesses to grow and thrive and hire more workers,” Obama will say, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the White House.

With nationwide unemployment at 9.9 percent, Obama has been stepping up his efforts on the economy, holding events outside of Washington to say government programs have helped stabilize the economy and pressing Congress to do more.

In Buffalo, New York, on May 13, he said steps taken by his administration were necessary to avert economic disaster and now the country is “headed in the right direction.”

In his remarks today, Obama will say his proposals will spur additional job growth by ensuring small businesses looking to grow have access to financing and that investments in those companies will be encouraged by eliminating long-term capital gains taxes.

“This shouldn’t be an issue of big government versus small government,” Obama will say. “This is an issue of putting our government on the side of the small-business owners who create most of the jobs in this country.”

Obama has urged creation of a $30 billion program that uses bailout money repaid by financial institutions to help community banks make loans to small businesses.

The Small Business Lending Fund Obama outlined on Feb. 2 would use money transferred from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Banks with assets from $1 billion to $10 billion may borrow from the program to make loans. The plan requires Congressional approval.

--Editors: Paul Tighe, Ben Richardson

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Tackett at

Euro worries prompt global stock market falls

Global stock markets have fallen heavily on Tuesday over continued fears about eurozone debt problems.

At midday in Europe the FTSE 100 in London was down by 2.6%, Germany's Dax index was 2.7% lower, while in France the Cac 40 index had dropped 3.2%.

The FTSE fell as low as 4,939.6 points, its lowest level for eight months.

Asian markets also saw sharp falls. Stocks in South Korea and Japan had been affected as North Korea reportedly went on to military alert.

In London, the FTSE 100 has fallen by more than 10% in little more than a month after hitting a 22-month high in April.

Toxic cocktail

The concerns about eurozone debt follow Monday's strongly-worded comments from the International Monetary Fund that the Spanish economy needs comprehensive and far-reaching reform.

That added to investors' worries over the weekend rescue of Spanish bank Cajasur by the Bank of Spain, only the second time the central bank has saved a regional lender.

Amid concerns over solvency in the sector, and in the wake of the Cajasur rescue, four Spanish savings banks then announced plans to merge.

Cajastur, Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo, Caja Extremadura and Caja Cantabria said they had reached agreement to form a group that would "strengthen solvency and assets of the participating banks".

"There's never been any mystery about the excessive exposure of Spain's banks to a bloated property market," said BBC business editor Robert Peston.

"The mystery has been how its banks avoided crippling losses on this exposure - although that increasingly looks like pain postponed rather than avoided.

"Or, at least, that's what today's retreat in share prices across Europe is saying, with bank shares falling especially sharply," Robert Peston said.

Week Euro

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said: "The toxic cocktail worsens. Continuing fears over the European debt situation stalling the global economic recovery has been exacerbated by the potential of military tensions in Korea."

And he said there was a shortage of buyers prepared to commit to the market at the present time.

The continued weakness of the euro is a concern, with investors dumping the currency amid fears that debts will cause defaults by weaker countries in the European Union.

In Tuesday trading the euro stood at $1.2237, after earlier falling as low as $1.2218.

And the euro stood at £0.8564 against the pound, compared to £0.8587 at close on Monday.

"The euro problems are very deep-rooted as eurozone members share a common currency but fiscal policies are left to each country," Japanese Finance Minister Naoto Kan told reporters.

"I hope financial markets will calm down gradually."

Sluggish recovery

On Tuesday, the European Union Economy Commissioner, Olli Rehn, warned that governments needed to make major reforms to boost growth.

The big risk is that once the recovery gets more robust, we sit idly in self-complacency and forget the structural reforms.

"That would lead us to a sluggish recovery - or even a lost decade," he said in a speech at the Brussels Economic Forum.

He said the reforms needed for each European country varied, but he called for the opening up of national markets.

Countries such as Greece, at the centre of fears about the eurozone economy, have regularly ignored EU calls to liberalise markets.

Another nation which has ignored calls to open its markets is Italy, which is set to reveal an austerity budget later on Tuesday.

Regional tensions

Earlier in Asia, Japanese stocks fell by 3.1%, and shares in South Korea fell by 2.7%.

Australian shares fell by 3%, Taiwanese stocks dropped 3.23% and the wider MSCI measure of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan fell by 3.6%.

Shares in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, China, India, Thailand and Malaysia all fell.

There were reports in South Korea that North Korea had told its military to prepare for war, but only if the South attacked it first.

Tensions in the region have been growing since international investigators blamed the North for torpedoing and sinking a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors.

The falls in Asia come after major markets in the US closed lower overnight, with the Dow Jones shedding 1.2% and the S&P 500 dropping 1.3%.

Monday, May 24, 2010

French Open 2010: Roger Federer starts defence of title with comfortable win

French Open 2010: Roger Federer starts defence of title with comfortable win

Roger Federer had a few problems with the umpire but none in subduing Australia’s Peter Luczak as he began his defence of the French Open.

A disputed line-call on set point in the first set sparked a prolonged debate between Federer and the man in the chair, Emmanuel Joseph, who insisted that he had already called the score and could not over-rule even though Federer claimed to have found a mark on the clay.

The fans at Roland Garros are not known for their patience, and Federer was jeered and hooted as he stood for over a minute in discussion with Joseph. But the world No. 1 did not let the argument affect his game.

Ranked 71 in the world, Luczak is the Australian No 2, and a player who has hit the best form of his career at the ripe old age (for a tennis player) of 30.

His nickname, somewhat predictably, is Lucky. But this has not been reflected in his draws at Grand Slam tournaments this year.

Before today’s match – a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 thumping at the hands of Federer – Luczak played Rafael Nadal in the first round at Melbourne, the outcome being another straight sets defeat.

He caught Federer off guard a couple of times with precise little drop shots, but the champion maintained a first-serve accuracy of 71 per cent and kept Luczak scampering into the corners with his crunching groundstrokes.

Raina leads team hungry for success

Stand-in captain Suresh Raina believes his young India team are "hungry" for success on their forthcoming tour of Zimbabwe later this month.

The 23-year-old is set to captain India following a disappointing World Twenty20 Championship in the West Indies, where their campaign came to an end in the Super Eights earlier this month.

Raina is standing in for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has been rested along with other senior players including Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag for the tri-series which also involves Sri Lanka.

He said: "We want the World Twenty20 disappointment to quickly become a thing of the past.

"The Zimbabwe tour will be an opportunity to learn and press for a regular berth in the ODIs and stake a claim at the highest level - Test cricket."

Raina knows his largely inexperienced side will have to work very hard to achieve success.

He said: "Our biggest challenge is to try and win every game. But I will not put myself or my team under excessive pressure.

"I realise one has to be disciplined and one must follow the process. The players are very eager and committed to make a mark."

The explosive batsman added that the selectors "took a positive step when picking such a young side".

But he said he knows his side well and believes the team's determination will pay off.

"We have a very good chance in the tri-series. The players are keen to do well. At some level or the other, I've played with all those who've been selected in Under-19, India A and India. I know them and they know me."

Taking tips from his mentors Dhoni and Saurav Ganguly, Raina feels the most important aspect of being a good captain is earning his team's respect.

"I've learnt from Dada (Ganguly) and Mahi (Dhoni). A good captain is somebody who gets the team to bond together, somebody who is able to communicate.

"Somebody who has the respect of his players. That's very important."

Although he is eager to perform in his new role, Raina is looking forward to his first Test cap with great anticipation.

"I was in the squad for the last Test against South Africa at the Eden Gardens in February. I didn't get to play, but felt I'd scored a hundred after our win.

"I can only work hard. Test cricket is a great form and the biggest performers get so much respect. Sure, there's something to look forward to.

Tehran Declaration opens new political era

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a telephone conversation, discussed the latest developments on Tehran Declaration on nuclear fuel swap, IRIB News reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a telephone conversation, discussed the latest developments on Tehran Declaration on nuclear fuel swap.

President Ahmadinejad described the Declaration as an effective, strong and logical measure and said it is a new era in political and international developments and is an appropriate opportunity for moving toward interaction and dialogue for everybody.

He called role of Turkey and Brazil in Tehran Declaration 'important and decisive' and said that Tehran, by continuing interaction and cooperation with friendly countries, is trying to create a new atmosphere in international relations upon constructive cooperation and justice.

President Ahmadinejad stressed that, in the international interactions, all countries should be able to use peaceful nuclear energy and nobody should have an atomic weapon.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presented a report on his consultations and measures he had taken on Tehran Declaration and underlined that coordination and consultation with Iranian senior officials will continue.

He said that Turkey will do its best to make Tehran Declaration a valuable opportunity for the international community.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spending cuts to send 'shockwave' through Whitehall

Immediate public spending cuts of £6.25 billion are designed to send a "shockwave" through Whitehall, the Government has announced.

The Chancellor, standing alongside his Lib Dem deputy at the Treasury, David Laws, said the reductions would be made while maintaining ''frontline'' services in key areas such as the NHS. He also announced that schools spending would be protected.

Mr Laws is to chair an "efficiency and reform group" including with Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to help push through the savings quickly and hold bodies to account.

"It will provide a central unit in the Government that can negotiate on behalf of all Government departments to renegotiate contracts to give our Government as much clout as possible to go out there to the private sector and negotiate savings," he said.

"But it is also imposing, with the agreement of the Treasury, some quite draconian controls over the next year on expenditure on consultancy, on advertising on IT, which will require approval down to a very low level of spending.

"There were some people who said 'Is this too draconian, are we being too inflexible?'. Actually, my view is that, unless we send out this sort of shockwave through Government departments to say 'You can't spend on all these areas', that they are not actually priorities, we won't get the step change in behaviour we expect.

"So we are being very draconian and very inflexible, deliberately, over the next year to drive out these types of costs."

The group will look at areas such as IT spending - with a freeze on £1 million-plus projects, procurement, advertising and marketing - with only "essential" items allowed, Civil Service expenses - such as cars and first-class travel - and recruitment and property.

There will also be an "immediate review to create a more simplified approach to Civil Service pay structures and terms and conditions", the Cabinet Office said.

Mr Osborne said teh scale of savings identified meant that school spending could be added to health, defence and international development budgets which have already been promised protection from new cuts.

Mr Osborne said the savings would include:

:: More than £1 billion of "discretionary" spending such as consultancy and travel;

:: Nearly £2 billion from IT programmes, suppliers and property;

:: Over £700 million from "restraining recruitment" and cutting quangos.

:: More than £500 million from cutting "low-value spending".

The savings were based on "strong economic advice" from the Bank of England and the Treasury in favour of "early action to deal with our debt", the Chancellor said.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lance Armstrong dismisses Floyd Landis doping claims

Lance Armstrong has dismissed disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis's allegations that he saw the seven-time Tour de France winner use illegal drugs on a team bus.

Stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping, Landis has admitted that he regularly doped as a rider.

Landis also accused cycling boss Johan Bruyneel and Armstrong of paying off a cycling official over a failed test.

"We have nothing to hide. With regards to the specific claims, they're not worth getting into it," Armstrong said.

Armstrong has often been accused by his rivals and critics of cheating but has never officially failed a doping test and has always maintained his innocence.

"I'm not going to waste my time or your time. It's our word against his word. I like our word," added Armstrong, with his long-time coach Bruyneel standing next to him. "We like our credibility."

The 32-year-old Landis has sent a series of e-mails to cycling officials and sponsors acknowledging and detailing his long-term use of banned drugs, and accusing former team-mate Armstrong of doing the same, including once on a team bus during a race.

American Landis claimed Armstrong and Bruyneel paid an International Cycling Union official to cover-up a test in 2002 after Armstrong purportedly tested positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO.

In an e-mail sent to USA Cycling chief Steve Johnson, Landis said Armstrong's positive EPO test was in 2002, around the time he won the Tour de Suisse.

However, Armstrong won the Tour de Suisse in 2001, not 2002, prompting the cycling great to say: "We're a little confused, maybe just as confused as you guys. The timeline is off, year by year."

The UCI released a statement saying it had "never changed or concealed a positive test result."

Landis also alleged that Bruyneel had introduced Landis to practices including steroid patch use and blood doping.

Bruyneel led the US Postal team which later became Discovery Channel, to victory in eight of nine Tour de France races from 1999, including Armstrong's seven successive wins between 1999-2005.

Landis joined US Postal in 2002, and teamed with Armstrong in three Tour de France campaigns before winning in 2006 riding for Phonak.

Landis also implicated other cyclists, including Armstrong confidant George Hincapie.

"I have been a professional on the circuit for 17 years - which is one of the longest careers in the peloton," said Hincapie.

"During that time, I have earned the respect of my peers and a reputation for working hard, honestly and honourably. I'm really disappointed to hear these accusations."

Landis says he is speaking out now partly because World Anti-Doping Agency's statute of limitations for doping offences of eight years meant his evidence would shortly become unusable.

"I made some misjudgements and want to clear my conscience," Landis told ESPN. "I don't want to be part of the problem any more."

Team Radioshack's Armstrong, 38, spoke to reporters before the start of the fifth stage of the Tour of California.

"I think history speaks for itself here," Armstrong said. "We don't know what he did or didn't do during the Tour. We followed the case, followed all the drama with regards to the [Landis] case. And now we see something different.

"At the end of the day, he pointed the finger at everybody still involved in cycling, everybody that's still enjoying the sport, everybody that still believes in the sport, everybody that's still working in the sport, was in the crosshairs."

Landis lost his appeal against being banned for two years and stripped of the 2006 Tour title at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which threw out his case in June 2008 and ordered him to pay $100,000 (£69,000) in judicial costs to the US Anti-Doping Agency.

His attempts to clear his name are believed to have cost him some $2m (£1.4m).

Landis revealed he first used performance-enhancing drugs in 2002 when he was a member of the US Postal team.

He said he had used testosterone, human growth hormone and female hormones as well as making use of frequent blood transfusions.

He also confessed to a one-time experiment with insulin, adding he was never threatened or forced to take drugs.

However, Landis maintains the result of his test at the 2006 Tour, when he was riding for Swiss team Phonak, was inaccurate and that he had been taking human growth hormone and not the synthetic testosterone he tested positive for.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

North Korea condemned by world powers over torpedo attack

An official investigation has concluded that a North Korean torpedo was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, prompting condemnation of the Pyongyang regime by America, Britain and the United Nations.

The prospect of dangerous instability on the Korean peninsula grew after South Korea vowed "resolute countermeasures" against its neighbour for the unprovoked attack.

The Cheonan, a 300 ft-long corvette, sank off the southern coast of Baengnyeong Island on March 26, within South Korean waters. Of the 104 men on board, 58 were rescued.

An official report found that a North Korean vessel had fired upon the Cheonan in the night before retreating back into North Korean waters.

The report was greeted with outrage by the US, Britain, Japan and the UN.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "The United States strongly condemns the act of aggression that led to their deaths.

"This act of aggression is one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law.... Such unacceptable behavior only deepens North Korea's isolation."

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, condemned what he called North Korea's "total indifference to human life".

Britain "and international partners are committed to working closely with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as they consider an appropriate multilateral response to this callous act," he added.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who is South Korean himself, described the investigation results as "deeply troubling", while the Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama strongly condemned the attack on the Cheonan, describing it as "unforgivable".

The report itself read: "The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine..

"There is no other plausible explanation."

The attack on the Cheonan is the worst apparent provocation by the North since the bombing of a Korean Air flight in 1987 with the loss of 115 lives.

The investigators unveiled large parts of the torpedo that had been salvaged from the scene, including its propellers, propulsion motor and steering section. They said these parts, some of which were inscribed with Korean lettering, "perfectly match the schematics of the CHT-02D torpedo included in introductory brochures provided to foreign countries by North Korea for export purposes".

The South Korean Defence ministry also noted that a "few small submarines and a mother ship supporting them left a North Korean naval base in the West Sea two to three days prior to the attack and returned to port two to three days after the attack."

North Korea has reacted angrily to the accusation, saying that the report was a "fabrication" and that it would wage "all-out war" if there was even a minor retaliation. North Korea has a history of sabre-rattling, but is also a nuclear-armed state, having tested an atomic bomb last year.

China, which is North Korea's strongest ally, and which could use its veto at the United Nations Security Council to block any further sanctions against Pyongyang, reacted cautiously to the news.

The sinking of the South Korean ship was "unfortunate", said Cui Tiankai, the deputy Foreign minister, without acknowledging that North Korea may be responsible for the incident.

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, visited Beijing earlier this month, perhaps in an attempt to gauge whether the Chinese would continue to support him in the wake of the aggression.

"China is not directly involved, so it should not take a stance on either side or express views on the incident," said Zhang Liangui, a North Korean expert at the Central Party School, where Communist Party leaders are trained.

"South Korea's submission of its report to the UN will clearly force China into making a stance and this will be a challenge. This will be handled by the Foreign ministry, but my view is that China, in accordance with its rising status as a major country, should not go against the rest of the world, but should consider its interests in line with the majority," he added.

In Seoul, the long weeks of mourning since the attack and the personal stories of the young men who lost their lives have deepened the sense of outrage, piling pressure on the government not to allow the lost lives to pass unavenged.

However, military retaliation against North Korea seems to have already been ruled out. "Nobody wants a war on the Korean peninsula and the truth is that it is not easy to take revenge after the event," said Choi Jong-min, whose brother-in-law, Petty Officer First Class Jo Jin-young, was among the dead.

"Military reprisals should have been taken there and then [at the time of the sinking], or not at all," he added.

South Korea has called an emergency meeting of its National Security Council on Friday to discuss its options. However, experts said that most of the punitive actions on offer stand to hurt Seoul at least as much as Pyongyang.

"There really are few good options out there for South Korea," said Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert at the International Crisis Group. "They can go to the UN, but in reality China is very unlikely to back serious economic measures against the North which is already in economic crisis.

"Anything too drastic, such as military retaliation or real moves to destabilize the North's economy risks regional instability that could trigger market crashes, capital flight and an overnight loss of regional confidence. It is really hard to see how the South ends up better off after this."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Journalists shot as Thai government troops storm barricades

Three foreign journalists were shot, one of them fatally and at least two anti-government protesters were killed in Bangkok today as Thai soldiers and armoured vehicles stormed the barricades of the Redshirt encampment.

An Italian journalist was shot in the stomach while Michel Maas, a Dutch journalist who has written for The Times was shot in the shoulder when soldiers turned their fire on journalists covering the clashes. The third journnalist, a Westerner in his late 40s, was shot in the leg.

At least 12 other people were injured in the battles after Thai troops smashed into the rally zone in Bangkok’s centre, tearing down the barricades of tyres and razor wire.

The armoured vehicles had machineguns mounted on top and the troops wore balaclavas and carried weapons and riot shields as they poured into the encampment that has paralysed the centre of Bangkok for the last six weeks.

Hundreds of armed police formed lines in Sukhumvit Road, a main route to the protest zone.

“This is D-Day,” said a soldier when asked whether this was the final push.

Inside the protest zone, troops fired M-16 rifles at fleeing protesters and shouted: “Come out and surrender or we’ll kill you.”

Red Shirt leaders tried to calm panicking supporters, who include scores of women and children, many of whom were openly crying.

“Please stay calm today, no matter what happens we will stay here together,” Redshirt leader Nattawut Saikuar said from the stage where some protesters were gathered. He directed them to a nearby Buddhist temple for safety.

The government had said the offensive was aimed at establihsing a secure perimeter around the protest base, but the military offensive now appeared to be aimed at completely closing down the camp.

This morning they claimed that some of the protest leaders had fled the rally site, while government troops had successfully gained control of the Lumpini Park area south of the protest camp.

At least 38 people have died since Thursday, bringing the total since April to 67. Over the weekend an air force sergeant was accidentally shot at night by nervous and trigger-happy soldiers; the rest of the dead have been civilians, most of them young men who had been baiting the soldiers.

The protesters, who are demanding the resignation of the Government, are armed with catapults, fireworks and petrol bombs. There have been sightings of Red Shirts carrying hand guns. The Times witnessed one Red Shirt brandishing a handgun, and another a rifle.

However, their weapons are eclipsed in power and range by the automatic rifles carried by the Royal Thai Army.

The problem for the Government is that the Red Shirt loyalists are so entrenched behind high barricades of tyres and bamboo staves, and so determined to resist that any attempt to evict them by force would inevitably bring devastating casualties. Despite this, the Army tightened its noose at dawn, a few hours after the Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, rejected an offer of peace talks by the Red Shirts.

Mr Abhisit said that there would be no talks until the protesters abandoned the Ratchaprasong district, where they have been for six weeks. Satit Wongnongtoey, one of his ministers, said: “The situation could be resolved and lead to negotiations when demonstrators disperse.” He quoted the Prime Minister as saying that “the situation will end only when the protest stops”, a condition that will certainly be rejected by the protest leaders.

Compared with the two previous days, when soldiers have been using live rounds to clear main roads north and south of the central protest area, there was less shooting yesterday. In Ratchaprasong, the shopping and business district where the Red Shirt leaders address their supporters from a covered stage, life continued as usual, with several thousand people ignoring the Government warning to go home.

But the offer of talks appeared to suggest that after two months of protest the Red Shirts felt their strength to be ebbing.

A Red Shirt leader told The Times that there were splits within the movement’s decision-making body. Older members had pressed for an offer last week by Mr Abhisit of new elections in November to be accepted. But the argument was won by younger Red Shirts, who insisted that Suthep Thaugsuban, the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of security affairs, must be prosecuted for his alleged responsibility in ordering troops to fire on civilians — a condition that the Government rejected.

“If they knew that nearly 40 people would be killed in the next four days, I think they would have taken a different decision,” the Red Shirt source said.

General Anupong Paochinda, the head of the Thai Army, has expressed his reluctance to use force against the protesters and said that the only solution would be a political one. Members of Thailand’s Senate had offered to mediate talks with the Government which broke down last week.

“Negotiations are over now,” said General Lertrat Rattanavanich, one of a group of some 60 senators who had tried to mediate.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Taliban suicide bomb hits NATO convoy, kills 18

A Taliban suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy in the Afghan capital Tuesday, killing six troopsfive Americans and one Canadian, officials said. Twelve Afghan civilians also died — many of them on a public bus in rush-hour traffic.

The powerful blast occurred on a major Kabul thoroughfare that runs by the ruins of a one-time royal palace and government ministries. It wrecked nearly 20 vehicles, including five SUVs in the NATO convoy, and scattered debris and body parts across the wide boulevard. The body of woman in a burqa was smashed against the window of the bus.

The attack — the deadliest for NATO troops in the capital since September — comes despite a ramped up effort by Afghan authorities to intercept would-be attackers and better secure a capital city that saw a spate of brazen attacks this winter.

In the last such attack in February, suicide bombers stormed two small downtown hotels and killed 16 people.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a phone call from an undisclosed location that the bomber was a man from Kabul and his car was packed with 1,650 pounds (750 kilograms) of explosives. The target of the attack was the foreign convoy, he said.

U.S. troops and Afghan police held a security cordon around wrecked vehicles at the blast site in the west of the city. Emergency workers zipped the dead into body bags and lifted the injured into ambulances.

"I saw one person laying on the ground with no head," said Mirza Mohammad, who was on his way to work when the blast happened up the road.

Police officer Wahidullah, who goes by one name, said he saw the body of woman in a burqa smashed up against the window of the bus.

"Everywhere was dead bodies," Wahidullah said. At least 12 Afghan civilians died and 47 were wounded — most of them in the bus, the Interior Ministry said.

U.S. forces spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said five American service members were killed in the attack, and the Canadian government said one of its service members also died.

It was the deadliest attack for NATO in the capital since a September suicide bombing that killed six Italian soldiers. The attack comes as NATO readies a major offensive in the southern province of Kandahar, a major Taliban stronghold.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the attack and said it would not deter NATO's efforts in Afghanistan.

"NATO remains committed to its mission to protect the Afghan people and to strengthen Afghanistan's ability to resist terrorism," Rasmussen said in Brussels.

President Hamid Karzai also condemned the attack.

"There were casualties among the NATO forces as well as among civilians — women, children and schoolchildren," Karzai told a news conference.

NATO said that five of its vehicles were damaged as well as more than a dozen civilian vehicles. There were no obvious military vehicles among the wreckage, but NATO troops often travel in unmarked SUVs in the capital.

The Feb. 26 attack against two residential hotels in the capital killed six Indians, along with 10 Afghans. Afghan authorities blamed the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same Pakistan-based Islamist militia that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 166 people.

Dantewada bus blast toll 31, PM to review Naxal strategy

A day after Naxals blew up a bus with security personnel and civilians on board near Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a top-level meeting to review the government's Naxal strategy.

The bodies of 31 people have been received in Sukma near Dantewada. The Maoists did not discriminate between the security forces and children. Sixteen special police officers (SPOs) and 15 civilians, including women and children were killed in the attack. Reports say 15 people have been rescued and rescue operations are on. Reports on the toll in the bus blast have been fluctuating since the incident last evening, as information is difficult to come by and ascertain in the dense forests of the Naxal-infested area where the bus was blown up.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh will leave for Delhi soon to meet the Prime Minister, who called the review meeting a day after Home Minister P Chidambaram told NDTV that the government would have to revisit tactical operations against the Maoists in view of their changing tactics. (Watch: Security will be strengthened: Raman Singh) | (Watch: Exclusive interview with P Chidambaram)

As the debate on how to tackle the growing Naxal menace continues, the Army is expected to suggest at an ongoing conference that Naxal-affected states have a Brigadier as advisor. (Read: Army to discuss growing Maoist threat)

In Chhattisgarh, last rites for those killed in the bus blast will be performed at Sukma. The Chief Minister and state home minister Nankiram Kawar are expected to attend. (Watch: Civilian buses not meant for cops, says Kawar)

On Monday evening, the civilian bus carrying passengers from Sukma to Dantewada was blown up by the Naxals, who used a powerful improvised explosive device (IED). There were 50 people, including SPOs, on the bus, reports said. (Read: War zone Dantewada)

The massive explosion left a 10-feet deep crater.

Sources said the SPOs on the bus were part of an operation launched three days ago. Two Maoists had been killed in the operation, but the local commander, Ganesh, had escaped.

After finishing the operation, most of those involved were walking back, but 15 of them boarded the bus near Gadiras. Maoists reportedly observed them at the bus stand and passed on the information. Sources said this pointed to the swift and effective intelligence and communication network of the Naxals.

SPOs are mostly local people recruited to fight the Maoists and have emerged as the biggest threat to them.

This is the first such attack on a civilian passenger bus. But only six weeks ago, Dantewada had witnessed the worst-ever massacre of 75 CRPF jawans and one policeman in a Naxal ambush. (Read: 76 jawans killed in Naxal attack)

Recent attacks:

* The Naxals had on April 6 carried out their deadliest attack killing 76 security personnel in Mukrana forests of Dantewada district. (Read: 76 jawans killed in Naxal attack)
* On May 8, seven CRPF jawans were killed when Naxals blew up a bullet-proof vehicle in Bijapur district.
* The Maoists also killed six villagers, including a sarpanch, near Teregaon in Rajnandgaon district on Sunday and threw their bodies outside the villages.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ballack to miss world cup with injury

The German football federation said Monday that the 33-year-old Chelsea midfielder had torn ligaments in his right ankle from a tackle

during his club's 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Portsmouth on Saturday. Ballack's ankle has been put in a cast and the federation said he won't be able to train for at least eight weeks.

``It's very disappointing, but I have to accept it,'' Ballack told German television, standing with crutches. ``It's football and you have to live with it. ... I am angry, clearly.''

Ballack later Monday arrived in Sicily to visit the team's training camp, the federation said.

Ballack's absence leaves Germany coach Joachim Loew without his most experienced player and leader in a squad with many young players. The German media called it a ``shock.''

The injury probably robs Ballack of the final chance to win the World Cup title after reaching the 2002 final and the 2006 semifinals.

``We are shocked, no question about it, and we are all very, very sad,'' Loew said at the team's training camp in Sicily. ``He is a very important player for us, a world class player who played a very important role in decisive games for us.

``There can be no question of resignation now. We are sure we can still play a good tournament.'' Loew said it was now up to young players to step up and rise to the occasion. ``We have to give them confidence,'' he said.

Loew will now have to pick a new captain and find someone to fill the defensive midfield role played by Ballack, Germany's three-time player of the year.

Despite his long and distinguished service, Ballack has been unable to win a title with Germany. He played a total of 63 minutes in his first major tournament, the 2000 European Championship.

Two years later in Japan and South Korea, his goals against United States and South Korea helped Germany reach the final. But he missed the final loss to Brazil after receiving a yellow card in the semifinals.

The 2004 European Championship was another disappointment, with Germany eliminated after the group stage. Juergen Klinsmann then took over as coach and selected Ballack as his captain.

Ballack missed the opening match of the 2006 World Cup in Germany because of a calf injury and didn't score in the tournament. He had two ankle operations before Euro 2008 but injured a calf before the final. Ballack played the match but Germany lost to Spain.

Ballack flew to Germany late Sunday to be examined by national team and Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt on Monday.

Ballack's ankle was still too swollen Sunday for a previously scheduled scan in London.

The federation said he should make a full recovery.

Ballack, who has made 98 appearances for Germany and scored 42 goals, was injured Saturday after a tackle by Kevin-Prince Boateng,previously a Bundesliga player who is the half brother of Germany defender Jerome Boateng. Kevin-Prince Boateng has chosen to play for Ghana, the country of his father and one of Germany's World Cup opponents.

Loew called the tackle ``brutal,'' and Ballack said the foul might have been intentional. Ballack and Boateng were involved in a scuffle shortly before the foul.

``I have seen it on TV and to say it was not on purpose means you have to be a friend of Boateng,'' Ballack said after the final at Wembley. ``Boateng was lucky to get away with a yellow but it is football and if the referee controls the game and decides it is no red card you have to accept it.''

Boateng was born and raised in Berlin and played for several Germany youth selections, including the under-21 team. From Hertha Berlin, he moved to Tottenham, then went on loan to Borussia Dortmund before joining Portsmouth.

In comments made to Sport-Bild online, Boateng apologized.

``I am sorry. there was no intent. I was too late and hit him with full force,'' Boateng said.

Germany's incomplete squad has been in Sicily since Friday. Seven players from Bayern Munich will join the only after Saturday's Champions

League final against Inter Milan.

Germany opens its World Cup campaign against Australia and then plays Serbia and Ghana in Group D.

``He's certainly one of their star players, but they have a strong squad,'' Australia defender Craig Moore said of Ballack. ``The initial impact of it happening will not be easy to handle but there's still plenty of time come kickoff at the World Cup when we face them.''